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FAO has issued a new warning to the international community that the H7N9 and H5N1 avian influenza viruses continue to pose serious threats to human and animal health, especially in view of the upcoming flu season.
...“We need keep our eyes on the bigger picture of promoting healthy food systems, especially when it comes to animal production and marketing,” ...Restructuring can create healthier, safer markets by developing facilities that employ proper food safety and hygiene measures....”
Many zoonotic disease outbreaks can be traced to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms.
…"Factory farming systems contribute to disease outbreaks in several ways: …They keep animals in cramped and often unsanitary quarters, providing a breeding ground for diseases; they feed animals grain-heavy diets that lack the nutrients needed to fight off disease and illness; and many CAFOs feed animals antibiotics as a preventative, rather than a therapeutic, measure, causing the animals--and the humans who consume them--to develop resistance to antibiotics."
For years, the public health community has warned about the risks of intensive livestock confinement. In 2003, the American Public Health Association called for a moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations. In 2008, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which included a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, concluded that industrialized animal agriculture posed “unacceptable" risks to public health. A key recommendation was the phasing out of extreme confinement practices such as gestation crates, which “induce high levels of stress in the animals and threaten their health,” the commissioners wrote, “which in turn may threaten human health."
The looming zoonotic danger
New Report on Zoonotic Diseases Highlights Dire Consequences of Intensive Farming Practices on the Health of Animals and People
Although factory farming has been a target of much criticism, it has its defenders. Marie Gramer, a veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, said enclosed farm buildings offer "biosecurity" from pathogens carried by wild animals, including birds and wild pigs.
In a separate study, other researchers have found that high exposure to swine manure spread in crop fields, along with living near swine livestock operations, appears to be linked with MRSA community-acquired infections, a type that continues to puzzle the experts.
MRSA is considered a "superbug" because of the bacteria's ability to fight off treatment, including the antibiotic methicillin. It can wreak havoc in health-care settings such as hospitals and nursing homes, especially among elderly and immune-compromised patients, but it also can occur in the community at large.