Mass industrialization has contributed to a perfect storm for avian flu to break out?
... industrial chicken operations are growing exponentially thanks to the resettlement of large agribusinesses in search of lower operational costs. Last year in Latin America and the Caribbean, there were over 2.5 billion chickens, nearly 1 billion more than 10 years ago, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. In 2004, according to Worldwatch Institute, Brazil became the world's second-largest poultry producer, just behind the United States.
Such expansion of industrial farming in less developed countries usually is accompanied by poor surveillance and control ...
Poor hygienic conditions in confined animal feeding operations, or factory farms, and their relative proximity to large concentrations of people compound the problem. Factory farms account for more than 40 percent of world meat production, up from 30 percent in 1990, according to the Worldwatch Institute's report, "Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry." Located near urban centers in countries with weak public health, occupational, and environmental standards, those farms "create the perfect environment for the spread of diseases, including outbreaks of avian flu," the institute said.
A precis of the above report can be found on the Worldwatch Institute web site.
A discussion hosted by the Council of Foreign Relations also raises the scenario.
ANTHONY FAUCI: That really is one of the real major problems, is that if you look at what has evolved over the past few years, given the relationship between economies of the countries involved and the relationship between flocks of chickens, the cross-contamination with migratory fowl, and the dependence of individual countries on these chicken flocks, it would have to be almost an economic revolution in the countries to be able to address it in a way that would essentially put a major block in the way of the ultimate progression.
I think the things that people don't understand, and we were just discussing this outside, we may well— in fact, it is highly likely— that we'll get away this year without there being a pandemic flu. But then what people will say is, "Well, OK, we've dodged that bullet. Let's move on to the next problem, whatever the next problem is, and likely not influenza." But the ingredients that have gone into the situation where we are right now, where we have over 100 documented infections, 54-plus deaths, is not going to go away, because the chickens are still infected, the customs and practices of the interaction between fowl, pigs, and humans in these Asian countries is not changing. So that the ingredients that gave us the issue that we have now are going to reappear next year. It may still be H5N1 or it may be H9N2 or it may be something else.
So unless we, as a global effort, get the countries involved to take a look at the conditions in those countries, and how we can alleviate them without destroying the economy of those countries, this problem is not going to go away.
While they are primarily focused on Asia, it is clear that other regions around the globe are potential flash points as well. Also, while H5N1 has captured popular attention, the CFR piece indicates that other influenza variants are also viable threats.