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Much like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) responsible for causing AIDS, the E. Coli 0157:H7 bacterium is a newly emerged pathogen whose spread has been facilitated by recent social and technological changes. E. Coli 0157:H7 was first isolated in 1982; HIV was discovered in the following year. People who are infected with HIV can appear healthy for years, while cattle infected with E. Coli 0157:H7 show few signs of illness. E. Coli 0157:H7
was most likely responsible for some human illnesses thirty or forty years ago. But the rise of huge feedlots, slaughterhouses, and hamburger grinders seems to have provided the means for this pathogen to become widely dispersed in the nation's food supply. American meat production has never before been so centralized; thirteen large packinghouses now slaughter most of the beef consumed in the United States. The meat-packing system that arose to supply the nation's fast food chains---an industry molded to serve their needs, to provide massive amounts of uniform ground beef so that all of McDonald's hamburgers would taste the same---has proved to be an extremely efficient system for spreading disease. 2