It’s flu season and many are choosing to get the flu vaccine. This choice is generally a good idea but should be made only after consulting your doctor. The vaccine is about 40% effective in preventing you from getting influenza. While getting the vaccine might keep you from getting the flu or lessen the severity it doesn’t stop the disease from occurring in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the disease from ever happening in the first place than relying on a partially effective vaccine to protect us? We think so and have written an article published in Juniper Online Journal of Public Health. We can actually stop the flu from developing thus preventing many people from getting sick or dying.
People have been catching the coronavirus from mink, animals raised to make fur coats. Here’s yet another reason to not buy fur coats as we head into the holiday season! More than 200 cases of coronavirus appear to be linked to sick minks on fur farms in Denmark, according to new data released last Thursday by the country’s public health agency. Worse, there’s worry that the strain of the virus in the mink might make the vaccine ineffective.
Danish officials said that they now want to cull all 15 million mink at the country’s roughly 1,200 fur farms as a precautionary step to protect people from contracting the virus. Mink on at least 220 fur farms in Denmark have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
We may be at risk here too. The United States, too, has confirmed that minks have contracted coronavirus on fur farms in Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan, although so far there is no evidence that the minks are making humans sick in the U.S. “These investigations are ongoing, and we will release data once available,” says Jasmine Reed, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson.
When people catch a disease such as the coronavirus from animals, it’s called zoonosis. While we’re on the subject, it is important to note as we go into flu season that influenza, the flu, is also a zoonosis, one that is spread from chickens and pigs. Since these diseases come from keeping animals in close confinement, the way to prevent such diseases is to stop confining animals.
Besides the risk to human health, raising mink is very harsh on the animals themselves. On fur factory farms around the world, millions of rabbits, foxes, mink and other wild animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors—only to be crudely gassed or electrocuted at the end.
Many vegetarians extend their choices to what they wear on their body as well as what is consumed as food. There are many good artificial furs, and there’s really no reason why anyone should choose to wear animal fur.
What if we stopped raising pigs? Easy answer: we would stop the swine flu.
We pay a very high price from raising pigs and, of course, the pigs do as well. A big part of that price is the swine flu. U.S. health officials are tracking a newly discovered strain of swine flu in China they say has the characteristics of viruses with potential to cause another human pandemic. Although the virus has not yet been detected in the U.S. or shown human to human transition, doctors have reason to worry it could spell trouble.
It’s flu season again! The flu is more common than many people think. Last year 25 million Americans got the flu. The question is, what can be done about it? Must we endure this every year? Is the only partially effective flu shot the only answer? And what does being a vegetarian have to do with it?
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies quite a bit from year to year – in years where there’s a good match of the vaccine to the viruses around us it can be effective 40-60% of the time, but in early 2019 it was only effective 29% overall, and some years it has been worse than that.
Cutting out the demand for meat is the only real answer, so being a vegetarian has everything to do with it. We could stop flu pandemics before they ever get started, and get rid of the flu once and for all. Remember, the flu vaccine only protects a person from getting sick, but it doesn’t prevent the virus from occurring in the first place. The flu doesn’t just happen – it is born and bred on super-crowded animal “factory farms”. Only the widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet and the subsequent collapse of factory farming can prevent the next flu pandemic. Read more
The swine flu is here and it’s serious this year. It will make some sick, some so sick they need to be hospitalized, and sadly some will die. Because there are no uniform reporting requirements in Washington, and because most will tough it out at home, it’s hard to get reliable statistics, but we do know that already 6 people in our state have died from it, and in the Spokane alone, for instance, 70 have been hospitalized. Oregon has been hit even harder and neighboring Idaho even harder than that. In fact, the swine flu is sweeping not only across America but throughout the entire world. And the flu season hasn’t even peaked yet.
The question is what can be done about it? Must we endure this every year? Is the only-partially-effective flu shot the only answer? And what does being a vegetarian have to do with it? The answer is that cutting out meat has what we could do about it. In fact, since the flu epidemic is born and bred on super-crowded animal “factory farms,” we could get rid of the flu once and for all by the widespread adoption of the vegetarian diet. To understand why, please see our flu posting.
The flu is nothing to sneeze at. Most years we see outbreaks of the flu that involve a number of fatalities. In a typical year as many as five million people will die from influenza worldwide, and up to 50,000 people here in the US will succumb to the disease. But every once in a while, a severe epidemic comes through, such as the Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed over 50 million people worldwide. While not nearly as severe as the Spanish Flu, influenza is again making its way across the country. As if the flu weren’t bad enough, the new strain H3N2 out this year has already caused 306 cases reported from 10 states, and typically infections with this strain tend to be more severe.
Many people are unaware of the connection between the flu and raising livestock, especially those livestock raised on large scale farming operations, known as factory farms. Influenza viruses start out in aquatic birds, but humans are not readily directly infected by these strains. Pigs, however, are highly susceptible to both avian and human influenza A viruses. They are commonly referred to as “mixing vessels” in which avian and human viruses commingle.
In pigs, viruses swap genes, and new influenza strains emerge with the potential to infect humans. Pigs may have been the intermediate hosts responsible for the birth of the last two flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968, and the so-called bird flu everyone was worried about a couple of years ago, H1N1, was a triple hybrid avian/pig/human virus.
In factory farms, thousands of animals are confined, often crowded into huge sheds. The crowding leads to stressful and extremely unhygienic conditions. The combination of reduced immunity due to prolonged stress in the pigs, and the high density confinement, makes these farms the perfect breeding grounds for new viruses. Under these conditions, new strains of swine flu are rapidly generated and transmitted from one pig to another, and then finally to humans who work with the animals. Once it gets into the community, the virus can spread very rapidly, as we have seen.
What’s true for pigs is largely true of chickens as well, which can also be mixers and propagators of influenza. Large scale chicken farms can become both the mixing vessels and breeding grounds for more strains of the influenza.
In order to better avert the threat of epidemics, public health efforts need to address the conditions that allow pigs and chickens to become breeding grounds for infectious disease. More focus needs to be placed on preventing flu viruses from getting into the human population in the first place, and that means starting at the farm.
Of course, if everyone changed to a vegetarian diet, there would be no need for factory farms, the livestock farm link in the influenza chain would be broken, and influenza epidemics and pandemics could become a thing of the past, saving both humanity and farm animals much suffering and premature death.