From Americas Program
The first outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, or “swine flu,” took place in a small town in the state of Veracruz. Carroll Farms, the massive industrial farm animal production facilities co-owned by Smithfield Foods and AHMSA of Mexico is located near La Gloria, in the municipality of Perote. A local boy, Edgar Hernandez, gained the dubious distinction of becoming the first confirmed case. After weeks of denying any connection between the farm and the illness, the state governor finally called for an independent investigation into possible linkages. That investigation has not been made public or even carried out so far as is known.
The governor’s announcement followed a long line of denials regarding the role of the hog farm—or hog farms in general—in the outbreak of the A/H1N1 virus in Mexico. Unusual respiratory diseases began showing up in communities surrounding the industrial feedlot in early March, with some indications dating back to January. Local health authorities attributed the outbreak to the open-pit lagoons of manure and biological wastes surrounding the farms.
On April 5, authorities declared a health cordon in the area but failed to carry out tests to determine an exact diagnosis of the strange illness showing up in local residents. They discovered that 60% of the community’s 3,000 people reported an undiagnosed respiratory disease. Meanwhile, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined on April 17 that two patient samples from San Diego were a new H1N1 virus. On April 21 the CDC issued a dispatch to its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to warn of the discovery. The San Diego cases were then linked to the suspicious cases popping up in Mexico and the alert went out of a possible pandemic.
Emergency measures in Mexico were not declared until April 23. On April 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On April 27, with the epidemic already rapidly spreading throughout the country and the press and public pressuring for accurate information, the Mexican government announced that little Edgar Hernandez was the first confirmed case of a new swine flu transmitted to and through humans.
On June 11, the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. The latest WHO report shows 162,380 confirmed cases worldwide and 1,154 deaths as of July 31. The Americas where the virus originated is the hardest-hit with 1,008 deaths, concentrated in the United States, Mexico, and Argentina.
Defending the Factory Farm
Experts have long warned that “industrial farm animal production” (IFAP) leads to potentially serious human health impacts. A tragically prophetic study done by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production of 2008 concludes, Keep reading at Americas Program→