From Volume 4, Issue Number 41 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 11, 2005

World Economic News

Expert: Globalized Agriculture Caused Avian Flu

An expert in the avian flu who saw the globalized poultry operations in Southeast Asia, described to EIR Oct. 5, how the avian flu pandemic, now threatening the world's population, emerged from these ill-conceived and criminally mismanaged operations.

The veterinary epidemiologist said that the H5N1 pandemic was bred in some of the large-scale poultry operations introduced into Southeast Asian countries in recent years. (Thailand, for example, is now the fourth-largest poultry producer in the world.) Infected flocks should have been completely destroyed, but they were not. Once the virus spread beyond the big poultry operations to peasant flocks in Vietnam, the country completely lacked the infrastructure to deal with it.

The situation is now out of control, because the mutated strain of the virus has now re-infected the migratory wild fowl population, which has moved across Asia and is presently in Europe. Most of the 126 human cases to date have been among people with close contact with poultry. But each infection of a new animal is another opportunity for a mutation or reassortment of the virus to a form that is easily transmissible from human to human. Once that happens, the pandemic is on, in a world ill-prepared to deal with it. 1918 may look like a good year in comparison.

Like all type-A influenzas, the virus came from the wild-bird reservoir, where it had been relatively benign. Through contact of wild birds with some of the unprotected factory farm animals, the virus was able to mutate or reassort into a deadly form. The virus is passed through the intestinal tract to the feces where it maintains a deadly concentration. By sticking to clothing, footwear, truck tires and the like, it was moved to other poultry operations, including across borders, probably among Thailand, Vietnam, and China. The virus can live for up to a week on the outside. One Thai company with ties to agricultural cartels, CP Group, maintains operations in all three countries.

The veterinary expert said he believed there was also use of infected poultry as breeding stock, and that smuggled chickens played a part.

The virus re-infected the wild-bird population, and got out of control. At that point it became too late to control by killing off flocks. The Qinghai Lake, China outbreak among migratory fowl was the sign that it had gone out of control. The threat to European flocks is not controllable, and will become pandemic, he thinks.

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