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September 26, 2012

"The Looming Zoonotic Danger"

Better animal welfare on factory farms could help reduce risk of human pandemic

reprinted with permission from CNN.com

  • Cramped quarters on factory farms create prime conditions for the spread of diseases. The HSUS

  • Dead animals may go unnoticed and lie unattended among the living. The HSUS

  • Overcrowding in filthy conditions generates conditions that are ripe for disease spread. The HSUS

  • Piles of dead animals are common in overcrowded factory farms. The HSUS

by Dr. Michael Greger

In 1969, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. William Stewart declared, "The war against diseases has been won."

We had penicillin. We had conquered polio and smallpox.

Even Nobel laureates were seduced into the heady optimism. To write about infectious disease, one Nobel-winning virologist wrote in a 1962 textbook, "is almost to write of something that has passed into history."

"[T]he most likely forecast about the future of infectious disease," he pronounced, "is that it will be very dull."

Recent headlines belie the fact that it has become anything but—from the mysterious SARS-like virus discovered in London, to Hantavirus in Yosemite and plague in Colorado to West Nile virus in Texas and the new Heartland virus in Missouri.

We've seen an unprecedented rise in infectious diseases in recent decades, 75 percent of which are "zoonotic," meaning they come from animals. About 300 new animal-to-human disease outbreaks have emerged in the last 60 years. Read the rest on CNN.com

Michael Greger M.D., is director of public health and animal agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States.

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