Tuberculosis, mad cow disease, and a porcine plague
Posted by metaphorical on 12 February 2007
No news is bad news, and there’s lots of bad news regarding the health of animals raised to be food for humans. There’s also plenty of bad news in the no-news sense—the mainstream U.S. media resolutely refuses to write about this stuff.
I wrote the other day that overreporting bad news gives people a skewed impression of reality and risk. In this case, underreporting does the same thing, leaving people free to believe that the food supply is healthy and healthful, and that those who worry about this sort of thing are fringe cranks, the sort of people you see wearing hospital masks whenever they walk down a city street.
But first, the good news. “Kansas State study finds new vaccine effective against deadly viral disease affecting swine,” according to a press release from the school.
(PressZoom) – MANHATTAN, KAN. — Researchers from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have completed a study showing that a newly-developed vaccine is effective against a deadly viral disease that is affecting swine herds in Kansas.
The disease, most widely known as porcine circovirus associated disease, was first recognized in Kansas swine herds in November 2005. The disease complex is an immunosuppressive condition associated with porcine circovirus type 2 or PCV2.
That’s particularly good news, because it seems the same plague has made its way into Iowa pig herds, via Canada.
Circovirus takes hold in Iowa
By Kristin Danley-Greiner, Farm News staff
DES MOINES — Pork producers learned at the Iowa Pork Congress last week that a common swine disease plaguing Canada since the 1990s has reared its head in Iowa herds.
That’s not the only animal disease coming down from Canada, there’s our old friend, mad cow disease, as the Canada Press reports.
EDMONTON (CP) – Canada has confirmed its ninth case of mad cow disease since 2003, in an Alberta bull.
… Eight previous cases of BSE have been detected in Canadian cattle since May 2003, when the discovery of an Alberta cow with the disease caused the United States to slam the border shut to cattle exports entirely.
The border reopened for Canadian beef from younger cattle within months of the original ban. But live cattle have only been allowed to move across the border since July 2005.
Five new cases were discovered in Canada in 2006, including one in a cow born five years after safeguards were adopted to prevent the spread of the disease.
And (to use the same segue twice in a row) that’s not all that’s plaguing cattle these days, according to this Associated Press story:
Bovine TB case found in eastern South Dakota
PIERRE — A case of bovine tuberculosis has been found in a cull-cow feedlot in southeastern South Dakota, according to state veterinarian Sam Holland.
It was the first case in the state in more than 35 years.
Holland said the cow that tested positive was sold by the feedlot to a slaughter plant in Wisconsin. Animal health officials are investigating, he said.
Bovine tuberculosis is a big deal, even though cases of it jumping from cattle to humans are rare. The South Dakota herd was quarantined, the story says, and far more cattle could be eventually affected:
If more than two herds are found to be infected, the state could lose its tuberculosis-free status.
Testing is under way to determine if the bovine disease has spread, and the economic threat is still unclear, Holland, who would not identify the feedlot’s location, said.
So the question about the bad news, in the no-news sense, is where’s the reporting of all this? Search on “porcine circovirus associated disease” and you’ll get both the Kansas State virus and the Iowa plague, but you’ll find only six reports, from the likes of PigProgress.net, in the Netherlands, the Fort Dodge Messenger, the Farm News news service, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. (I came across them in a newsletter by my favorite fringe food journalist and activist, the NotMilk Man.
Where’s CNN and Fox? Time and Newsweek? If the Canadian border is shut down again to imported beef, or entire state of South Dakota loses its tuberculosis-free status it’s going to have a big impact on farmers there and on the price of meat everywhere. You would think Business Week and the Wall Street Journal would be all over that.