U.N. to Investigate Industrial Pig Farm in Mexico as Possible Swine Flu Source
United Nations food inspectors are going to Mexico to investigate reports that industrial pig farms were the source of the swine flu outbreak, the BBC reports.
As I wrote yesterday, based on some excellent reporting in Grist and elsewhere, local residents in La Gloria, Mexico, where the swine flu outbreak may have originated, suspect that the source is the Granjas Carroll industrial pig farm. The facility is half-owned by U.S.-based Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor.
Although some 60 percent of the town was sick with some sort of flu recently, it’s not clear that it was swine flu and Smithfield denies that any of its hundreds of thousands of pigs were infected. Smithfield subsidiaries “routinely administer influenza virus vaccination to their swine herds and conduct monthly tests for the presence of swine influenza,” the company said in a statement.
However, the current swine flu outbreak appears to involve a new strain of H1N1 influenza, so vaccinations against earlier forms of the virus may not work against this one.
The Mexican pig industry, meanwhile, denies all responsibility.
“We deny completely that the influenza virus affecting Mexico originated in pigs, because it has been scientifically demonstrated that this is not possible,” said a statement issued by the National Organization of Pig Production and Producers and its president, Mario Humberto Quintanilla González.
But the industry’s insistence that the disease cannot be transmitted from pigs to people contradicts almost everything the Mexican government has been saying about it, reports David Kirby for The Huffington Post. Mexico’s Health Minister, Jose Angel Cordova, has said the virus, “mutated from pigs, and then at some point was transmitted to humans.”
Fortunately, U.N. health inspectors don’t seem to be taking anyone’s word for it and will conduct their own investigation.
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