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By Ahmed, Iqbal | Islamic Horizons, January/February 2010 | Go to article overview

Linked in Defense


Ahmed, Iqbal, Islamic Horizons


BY IQBAL AHMED * One hundred fifty-six children have died of the HlNl influenza virus, the scientific name for swine flu, now present in forty-six states and affecting as many as one million Americans, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 13 Nov. 2009. The pork industry has successfully lobbied for a name change, but the scientific community still maintains that this disease comes from pigs.

Like human beings, pigs can get infected with swine flu. They are also susceptible to avian flu and human flu. Pigs often show clinical signs of the flu, but only about 1 to 4 percent of them die from it. Farmers and veterinarians who work closely with infected pigs can also be infected. According to recent studies, various flu viruses affect 30-50 percent of all pigs, 15 to 20 percent of pig farmers, and 10 percent of all veterinarians during America's flu season.

H1N1 influenza is caused by the type A influenza virus, which is not transmitted through food. Such cases are now on the increase. Its symptoms are similar to those of regular flu: coughing, sore throat, fever, chills, headache, and fatigue. Some patients also suffer from nausea and diarrhea. Unfortunately, because of the human body's virtually indistinguishable symptomatic response, swine flu cannot be distinguished from other types of flu. Nevertheless, it can be prevented by vaccinating pigs, enforcing good bio-security measures and good hygiene practices among pig farmers, and installing proper ventilation systems. In the American Midwest and various European countries, farmers raise herds of pigs. If they are careless during flu season, they may contract an influenza virus and spread it to the general population.

Recently bird flu (H5N1), which destroyed several large poultry flocks, killed people mainly in Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, China, and Thailand. America lost billions of dollars in exports because of Mad Cow Disease (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy). The most common type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy found in humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a degenerative neurological disorder (brain disease) that is very rare, incurable, and invariably fatal. Toxoplasmosis, which is transmitted by cats through their stools, can cause serious problems for pregnant women and can also lead to neurological disease or eye damage. Cats can also transfer ringworm (dermatophytosis), a fungal disease to which many people are susceptible. This is probably the most common skin disease among cat owners. Ticks, often brought into the household by a family pet, carry several diseases, some of which have zoonotic potential (e.g., Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever).

Veterinarians working in large animal operations should develop a local system to report cases of swine flu to local physicians and the area's relevant authorities, as well as develop and implement management strategies to reduce the spread of flu viruses among pigs, people, and birds. …

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