Antibiotic Use on Farms Drops

In unexpected but good news, the FDA announced this week that antibiotic sales for use on farm animals has dropped 10% since they began collecting data in 2009. Overuse of antibiotics is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance, which is going to have life and death consequences for all of us (mostly on the death side). Farms use antibiotics to prevent animals from getting sick, and they also have the nice side effect of making animals grow faster, which means more meat eating and more money. Though the 2016 antibiotic sales numbers are still higher than in 2009, it is a step in the right direction.

According to a statement from Avinash Kar, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “this course change provides a glimmer of hope that we can beat the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections.”

Many large poultry company have made commitments over the past two years to reduce antibiotic use in chickens. Perdue Farms has led the way in this effort, and the vast majority of the company’s chickens now get no antibiotics at all.

German authorities warn of swine flu mutation risk

Germany’s federal agency for infectious diseases said on Tuesday there were signs the H1N1 swine flu virus had started to mutate and warned it could spread in the coming months in a more aggressive form…

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said recently the virus is currently “pretty stable,” but warned it could still change into a more deadly form, perhaps mixing with the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating widely in poultry.”

Oh, man.  If swine flu and bird flu mix into a virus easily spread among people, that would really, really suck.  But, I think a lot people are just saying things to be alarmists.  I’m not ashamed to admit I am one of them.

Current stats: 5,5867 confirmed cases world-wide, and 238 deaths.

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Don’t Eat Infected Pigs

As much as I love bacon, I will not be eating any bacon that comes from a pig infected with the H1N1 virus.

The WHO states that it is “possible for flu viruses to survive the freezing process and be present in thawed meat, as well as in blood.” They are slightly more cautious than the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which say “import bans are not required to safeguard public health because the disease is not food-borne and has not been identified in dead animal tissue.”

The director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety says that “…blood (and meat-juice) from influenza H1N1-infected pigs may potentially contain virus, but at present, this has not been established.”

After reading about dead pigs and blood and meat juices, I’m really not that hungry for bacon anymore anyways.

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Slowing Down?

The number of confirmed cases is now at 787, as the number of backlogged cases have been processed.  Mexico says the numbers have stabilized in their country.

In a new twist, Canada is reporting that a pig has caught swine flu from a person who had it.

Speaking of pigs, Egyptians have been fighting with police over the order to cull all their pigs.  Sadly, it looks like they will all be eating less delicious bacon.

Things seem to be calming down.  But as the Boston Globe reports:

“More concerning is whether the virus will return, perhaps harder, when regular influenza begins its march here. Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere is about to begin, and U.S. authorities will watch how the swine flu circulates there over the coming months as they prepare the first vaccine and then decide whether to order that large amounts of it be produced in the fall.

Even if the new virus doesn’t prove as potent as authorities feared, Besser said that doesn’t mean the U.S. and World Health Organization overreacted in racing to prevent a pandemic, or worldwide spread, of a virus never before seen.

With a new infectious disease, “you basically get one shot, you get one chance to try to reduce the impact,” Besser said. “You take a very aggressive approach and as you learn more information you can tailor your response.”

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Cheap Tickets to Mexico! Yes!

If you were delaying your awesome spring break trip to Mexico due to financial reasons, now is definitely one of the cheaper times to book them.

“If you’re paying more than $300 right now to anywhere in Mexico, you’re nuts,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of ticket research firm

“The airlines are trying to fill jets after the U.S. urged skipping nonessential trips to the country hardest hit by the virus. Tour operators, cruise lines and Canada’s two largest carriers are among businesses halting Mexico air service and port calls.”

Obviously, this whole swine flu thing has been a bit of a blow to the travel industry, but so far at my job (which happens to be in the travel industry), people here are not panicking.  In fact, we are going ahead with our Cinco de Mayo party tomorrow afternoon (planned before the outbreak), but I think we may be foregoing the pig roasting (fire codes, fear of pigs).  Hopefully there will still be margaritas and general merriment despite the impending shadow looming on the travel industry.
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