Is the swine flu that is a potential pandemic a direct result of factory farming?   One could certainly make that case, as the disease vector appears to be a massive pork production facility in Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated.  The massive breeding facility produces for slaughter nearly one million hogs per year.

Last week the most excellent bio-threat watchdog Biosurveillance published a timeline of the outbreak since the first case was identified on March 30, when a Canadian man who had returned from Mexico on the 22nd and felt progressively worse since returning home fell into a coma.  

The violent drug war that has killed thousands kept everyone’s attention on the border and the pacific coast, and a spike in respiratory illnesses in the interior went unnoticed until April 2, when it was reported in the local media in Mexico, but officials were still blaming it on normal seasonal disease arcs.  

On April 6, the disease vector was isolated – a fly that breeds in hog waste.

April 6

Veratect reported local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico.  Sources characterized the event as a “strange” outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town’s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February.

Residents claimed that three pediatric cases, all under two years of age, died from the outbreak. However, health officials stated that there was no direct link between the pediatric deaths and the outbreak; they stated the three fatal cases were “isolated” and “not related” to each other.

Residents believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to “flu.” However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak.

Local health officials had implemented several control measures in response to the outbreak. A health cordon was established around La Gloria. Officials launched a spraying and cleaning operation that targeted the fly suspected to be the disease vector. State health officials also implemented a vaccination campaign against influenza, although sources noted physicians ruled out influenza as the cause of the outbreak. Finally, officials announced an epidemiological investigation that focused on any cases exhibiting symptoms since 10 March.

This information was available in our web portal to all clients, including CDC and multiple US state and local public health authorities.

Grist did the yoeman’s work and looked for any acknowledgment of the Smithfield Farms  connection in the U.S. press and found nothing; but it appears that Mexico is at least as complacent and ineffectual about controlling the factory farms that poison water, stink up communities, plummet surrounding property values and sicken – and now kill – the residents who have to live around the damned things, as their neighbors to the north.  

At least in Mexico one media outlet, the Mexico City daily La Jornada has pointed up the connection between corporate hog farms and the outbreak – will the corporate owned American press, underwritten in large part by Archer-Daniels-Midland, do the same?  I’m not holding my breath – unless I’m near a CAFO