Larry Burnett: Our diets and the flu

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:18 p.m.

The flu epidemic has invaded 48 states, overwhelming medical facilities, exhausting vaccine supplies and killing at least 29 children and thousands of seniors. Both the problem and solution to this disaster hinge on how we relate to animals raised for food.

Indeed, 61 percent of the 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans originate with animals. The more recent, contagious and deadly viruses among these include Asian flu, dengue fever, Ebola, H5N1 (bird flu), HIV, SARS, West Nile and yellow fever.

The pandemic “Spanish flu” of 1918, killed 20 million to 50 million people worldwide, and the World Health Organization predicts more pandemics in the future.

Today's factory farms are virtual flu factories. Sick, crowded, highly stressed animals in contact with contaminated feces and urine provide ideal incubation media for viruses. As these microbes reach humans, they mutate to defeat the new host's immune system, then propagate by contact.

Each of us can help end animal farming and build up our own immune system against the flu by replacing animal products in our diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These foods don't carry flu viruses, or government warning labels, are touted by every major health advocacy organization and were the recommended fare in the Garden of Eden.

Larry Burnett lives in Gainesville.

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