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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Crated pigs

Before the Sanitary Revolution of the 19th century established sewage collection and treatment, cities were centers of filth and pestilence. “Thousands of tons of midden filth filled the receptacles, scores of tons lay strewn about where the receptacles would receive no more,” observed an English medical officer in Leeds in 1866. “Hundreds of people, long unable to use the privy because of the rising heap, were depositing on the floors.”971 Fecal diseases from squalor and overcrowding, like cholera and typhoid fever, were rampant. Animals are increasingly raised for food today in conditions straight out of the Middle Ages.972

Award-winning science journalist and author Madeline Drexler compares modern meat production facilities to a “walled medieval city, where waste is tossed out the window, sewage runs down the street, and feed and drinking water are routinely contaminated by fecal material.”973 In the United States, farm animals produce more than one billion tons of manure each year—the weight of 10,000 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.974 That is one huge load of crap. Each steer can produce 75 pounds of manure a day, turning feedlots into wading pools of waste.975 “Animals are living in medieval conditions and we’re living in the 21st century,” the chief of the CDC’s Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch pointed out. “Consumers have to be aware that even though they bought their food from a lovely modern deli bar or salad bar, it started out in the 1600s.”976

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., describing hog farms:
Stadium-size warehouses shoehorn 100,000 sows into claustrophobic cages that hold them in one position for a lifetime over metal-grate floors. Below, aluminum culverts collect and channel their putrefying waste into 10-acre, open-air pits three stories deep from which miasmal vapors choke surrounding communities and tens of millions of gallons of hog feces ooze into North Carolina’s rivers.977
The slum conditions on factory farms are breeding grounds for disease.978 The British Agriculture Ministry walks us through the microbiological hazards of modern pig production:
Treatment may be given to sows for metritis, mastitis, and for diseases such as erysipelas and leptospirosis. In most indoor herds antibiotic treatment starts soon after birth. Piglets will receive drugs for enteritis and for respiratory disease. From weaning (usually three weeks) all piglets are gathered, mixed and then reared to finishing weights. Weaners usually develop post-weaning diarrhea caused by E. coli which occurs on day 3 post-weaning…. Post-weaning diarrhea is quickly followed by a range of other diseases. Glasser’s Disease (haemophilus parasuis) occurs at 4 weeks, pleuropneumonia at 6–8 weeks, proliferative enteropathy from 6 weeks and spirochaetal diarrhea and colitis at any time from 6 weeks onward…. At 8 weeks the pigs are termed growers and moved to another house. Here they will develop enzootic pneumonia, streptococcal meningitis (Streptococcus suis), and, possibly, swine dysentery. Respiratory disease may cause problems until slaughter.979
According to animal scientists at Purdue and the University of Georgia, the late 19th and early 20th centuries ironically “might well have been the golden age for domesticated livestock in terms of welfare and disease control.”980

High-density production allows for disease to spread faster to greater numbers of animals.981 Because intensive operations are vulnerable to catastrophic losses from disease,982 the USDA considers animal disease “the single greatest hindrance to efficient livestock and poultry production on a global basis.”983 Industrial animal factories lead not only to more animal-to-animal contact, but to more animal-to-human contact, particularly when production facilities border urban areas.984

Due to land constraints around the world, massive livestock operations are moving closer to major urban areas in countries like Bangladesh. This is bringing together the worst of both worlds985 —the congested inner cities of the developing world, combined with the congested environment on industrial farms.986 The United Nation’s FAO considers this a dangerous nexus, providing “flash points” for the source of new diseases.987

There are other systemic factors that inherently increase the susceptibility of these animals to disease. The USDA cites a loss of genetic diversity in herds and flocks.988 A former chief of the Special Pathogens Branch of the CDC explains: “Intensive agricultural methods often mean that a single, genetically homogeneous species is raised in a limited area, creating a perfect target for emerging diseases, which proliferate happily among a large number of like animals in close proximity.”989

The stress associated with the routine mutilations farm animals are subjected to without anesthesia990 —including castration, branding, dehorning, detoeing, teeth clipping, beak trimming, and tail docking991 —coupled with the metabolic demands of intensive production, such as artificially augmented reproduction, lactation, early weaning, and accelerated growth rates, leave animals, according to one review, “extremely prone to disease.”992 Never before have microbes had it so good. In the 20 years between 1975 (around the time when the dean of Yale’s School of Medicine famously told students that there were “no new diseases to be discovered”993 ) and 1995, 17 foodborne pathogens emerged, almost one every year.994 With billions of feathered and curly-tailed test-tubes for viruses to incubate and mutate within, a WHO official described the last few decades as “the most ambitious short-term experiment in evolution in the history of the world.”995