Avian Influences: The Politics of the Mid-West Bird Flu Outbreak

Robert Wallace is an evolutionary biologist and social epidemiologist, and co-author of the groundbreaking Farming Human Pathogens (2009). In a recent blog post he addresses the recent – and ongoing – outbreak of avian influenza in the US. In this short essay he dissects the public discussion and institutional response to the outbreak, and lays bare the economic and ecological issues surrounding them. Wallace doesn’t pull any punches, so consider yourself warned – he makes a very compelling case that industry and government are both responding in ways that serves industry first, and the public not at all.

Originally posted June 10, 2015 on Farming Pathogens:

Made in Minnesota

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

The epizootic began with a soft opening, hitting a handful of backyard farms and wild birds in December in Washington and Oregon before spreading east. Suddenly in early March, H5N2 wiped out 15,000 turkeys on an industrial farm in Pope County, Minnesota, the first of what would be nearly 9 million birds and counting killed or culled across 108 farms over 23 counties.

Go to original: Made in Minnesota

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