Monday, November 28, 2005

Study indicates those with contact to pigs have higher risk of infection - DUH!

Thanks to Instapundit I saw this article on a study partially funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The study was purported to say "...suggests U.S. farmers, veterinarians and meat processors have a markedly high risk of infection from flu viruses spread by pigs." and "... the fact pigs can be infected by swine viruses, bird viruses and human flu viruses means they act as virtual virus "mixing bowls.""

This quote from the NIAID Director does not sound like very good science, ""The worry is if a pig were to become simultaneously infected with both a human and an avian influenza virus, genes from these viruses could reassemble into a new virus that could be transmitted to, and cause disease in, people," said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci."

I don't know enough about how viruses can interact to know if this is true, but it sounds more like the rational behind supporters of the Precautionary Principle.

The report is also posted at the NIH website which states this "While the findings are not entirely unexpected, the strikingly higher risk of infection coupled with the fact that pigs can be infected by swine viruses, bird (avian) viruses as well as human flu viruses...". The NIH posting gives more data on the study and it's results. For example the study looked at "111 farmers, 97 meat processing workers and 65 veterinarians. The fourth control group included 79 volunteers from the University of Iowa with no occupational pig exposure.". This doesn't seem like that large a sample.

This statement is the heart of this scare announcement "The researchers tested the serum samples for antibodies to several then-current swine and human influenza A viruses. The results showed that all three occupational study groups had markedly elevated antibodies to swine flu viruses compared with the control group. Farmers had the strongest indication of exposure to swine flu viruses, as much as 35 times higher than the control group. Similarly, comparable values were as much as 18 times higher for veterinarians and as much as 7 times higher for meat processors than the control group. In contrast, exposure to human flu virus in the occupational groups was not significantly different than that of the control group."

It would seem logical to me that people who have some exposure to animal products (meat processors) would have some more risk that those with no exposure and those with year round close exposure would have the greatest, apparently this logic is news to the NIH. More likely they would like it to sound like we need more studies done so that they can continue to justify their, likely sky high, salaries.

However all of this comes under the heading of "Not News". We have known for decades and possibly centuries that those people having direct contact with animals are exposed to more bacteria and viruses. While this does cause I higher infection rate it also means that their immune systems are more robust has it has had to grow stronger to battle these infections. If you don't remember this just go back and read All Creatures Great and Small.


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