Sources are pointing to U.S. factory hog farming in Mexico (a subsidary of Smithfield Foods was mentioned as having a possible connection), with their huge open ponds of waste that allow birds to mingled swine and bird 'flu, which then brings biting insects who pick up the mixture and infect to people carrying the human 'flu -- a perfect storm of disease if it turns out to be the cause:
Officials from the CDC and USDA will likely arrive in Mexico soon to help investigate the deadly new influenza virus that managed to jump from pigs to people in a previously unseen mutated form that can readily spread among humans.From the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Production:
One of the first things they will want to look at are the hundreds of industrial-scale hog facilities that have sprung up around Mexico in recent years, and the thousands of people employed inside the crowded, pathogen-filled confinement buildings and processing plants.
The continual cycling of swine influenza viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds or flocks provides increased opportunity for the generation of novel viruses through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human-to-human transmission of these viruses. In addition, agricultural workers serve as a bridging population between their communities and the animals in large confinement facilities. This bridging increases the risk of novel virus generation in that human viruses may enter the herds or flocks and adapt to the animals.Mexican lawmakers have already begun to point to subsidaries of U.S. factory hog farms that moved into the Mexico City area in the last few years, such as Smithfield.
Reassortant influenza viruses with human components have ravaged the modern swine industry. Such novel viruses not only put the workers and animals at risk of infections, but also potentially increase zoonotic disease transmission risk to the communities where the workers live. For instance, 64% of 63 persons exposed to humans infected with H7N7 avian influenza virus had serological evidence of H7N7 infection following the 2003 Netherlands avian influenza outbreak in poultry. Similarly, the spouses of swine workers who had no direct contact with pigs had increased odds of antibodies against swine influenza virus. Recent modeling work has shown that among communities where a large number of CAFO workers live, there is great potential for these workers to accelerate pandemic influenza virus transmission.
The company is denying this, asserting they vaccinate their hogs. However, that does not account for the lethal combination of fetid waste ponds, birds with Avian 'Flu and humans exposed to biting insects that have picked up the combination from birds and transmitted it to people carrying a human strain of 'flu.
Is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site.
On Friday, the U.S. disease-tracking blog published a timeline of the outbreak - snip - The link [to factory farming] is being made in the Mexican media, however. “Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria,” declared a headline in the Vera Cruz-based paper La Marcha.
La Marcha's article's Google translation: According to one of the residents of the community, Eli Ferrer Cortes, fecal and organic waste at Granjas Carroll do not receive adequate treatment, which creates water and air pollution in the region.
David Kirby has more at Huffington Post; Tom Philpott has more at Grist.