Table of Contents:



I. Storm Gathering

1. 1918

2. Master of Metamorphosis

3. H5N1

4. Playing Chicken

5. Worse Than 1918?

6. When, Not If

II. When Animal Viruses Attack

1. The Third Age

2. Man Made

3. Livestock Revolution

4. Tracing the Flight Path

5. One Flu Over the Chicken's Nest

6. Coming Home to Roost

7. Guarding the Henhouse

III. Pandemic Preparedness

1. Cooping Up Bird Flu

2. Race Against Time

3. Tamiflu

IV. Surviving the Pandemic

1. Don't Wing It

2. Our Health in Our Hands

3. Be Prepared

V. Preventing Future Pandemics

1. Tinderbox

2. Reining in the Pale Horse


References 1-3,199

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Per capita meat consumption in China (FAO)+

In response to the torrent of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases jumping from animals to people, the world’s three leading authorities—the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)—held a joint consultation in 2004 to determine the key underlying causes. Four main risk factors for the emergence and spread of these new diseases were identified. Bulleted first: “Increasing demand for animal protein.”951 This has led to what the Centers for Disease Control refer to as “the intensification of food-animal production,” the factor blamed in part for the increasing threat.952

Animals were domesticated 10,000 years ago, but never like this. Chickens used to run around the barnyard on small farms. Now, “broiler” chickens—those raised for meat—are typically warehoused in long sheds confining an average of 20,000 to 25,000 birds.953 A single corporation, Tyson, churns out more than 20 million pounds of chicken meat a day.954 Worldwide, an estimated 70% to 80% of egg-laying chickens are intensively confined in battery cages,955 small barren wire enclosures stacked several tiers high and extending down long rows in windowless sheds.956 It is not uncommon for egg producers to keep hundreds of thousands—or even a million—hens confined on a single farm.957 Half the world’s pig population—now approaching 1 billion—is also crowded into industrial confinement operations.958 This represents the most profound alteration of the animal-human relationship in 10,000 years.959

Driven by the population explosion, urbanization, and increasing incomes,961 the per-capita consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has skyrocketed in the developing world,962 leading to a veritable Livestock Revolution beginning in the 1970s, akin to the 1960s Green Revolution in cereal grain production.963 World meat production has risen more than 500% over the past few decades.964 To meet the growing demand, livestock production will have to double by 2020.965

To evaluate the global risks of infectious animal diseases, the Iowa-based, industry-funded966 Council for Agricultural Science and Technology created a task force that included public health experts from the WHO, veterinary experts from the OIE, agriculture experts from the USDA, and industry experts from the likes of the National Pork Board. Its report was released in 2005 and traced the history of livestock production from family-based farms to industrial confinement. Traditional systems are being replaced by intensive systems at a rate of more than 4% a year, particularly in Asia, Africa, and South America. “A major impact of modern intensive production systems,” the report reads, “is that they allow the rapid selection and amplification of pathogens that arise from a virulent ancestor (frequently by subtle mutation), thus there is increasing risk for disease entrance and/or dissemination.” Modern animal agriculture provides “significant efficiency in terms of economy of scale,” but the “cost of increased efficiency” is increased disease risk. “Stated simply,” the report concluded, “because of the Livestock Revolution, global risks of disease are increasing.”967

In the United States, the average numbers of animals on chicken, pig, and cattle operations approximately doubled between 1978 and 1992.968 This increasing population density seems to be playing a key role in triggering emerging epidemics. In terms of disease control, according to the FAO, “[t]he critical issue is the keeping [of] more and more animals in smaller and smaller spaces….”969 The unnaturally high concentration of animals confined indoors in a limited airspace producing enormous quantities of manure provides, from a microbiologist’s perspective, “ideal conditions for infectious diseases.”970