Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goat flu?

Earlier, there was cat flu (SARS), then FMD (cow flu?), then bird flu, and recently, swine flu. Now, what is this "caprine contagion", goat flu?

New diseases are emerging. Or new strains from old diseases are evolving. Some of those diseases come from the tropics, others come from the frigid regions.

For diseases affecting farm animals -- those that humans eat like chicken, cattle and pork, or those that humans derive some products like goat milk or cow milk -- and later become diseases affecting humans, there are at least two lines of defense: treat the affected animals, and treat the affected humans.

Since the former (treat the affected animals) is seldom done, what is usually done is mass slaughter of those infected or suspected to be infected by the new dangerous disease. But killing tens of thousands of goats, like this case in the Netherlands, is very costly, both financially and emotionally.

I talked to a new friend working in a multinational pharma company. Although the main concern for them is continued, and perhaps expanded, price control of their most popular, most saleable (because these are effective) drugs, the next concern they are watching is possible government price control of pharma and biotech products for crops and animals.

As more and new diseases are emerging or re-emerging, the need for continuing science and medicine innovation should be recognized and hence, be encouraged, not discouraged.

Below is the news story.


Goats in the Netherlands

Caprine contagion
Jan 7th 2010 | THE HAGUE
From The Economist print edition

A dangerous Dutch epidemic: goats now, humans next?

EVEN for one of Europe’s most efficient countries, it is a tricky problem. At least 40,000 pregnant goats must be destroyed in the coming weeks to head off a new outbreak of Q-fever, a nasty disease that has killed six of the 2,300 people in the Netherlands who caught it last year. The culprit, Coxiella burnetii, is one of the most infectious bugs around. Released into the air during birthing or miscarriages by infected goats, a single bacterium is enough to infect a human, causing symptoms much like flu, though more persistent. Though treatable with antibiotics, it can cause fatal complications if undiagnosed. Governments have investigated it as a potential biological weapon.

The epidemic has been growing since 2007. In 2008 infections exceeded 1,100, a record. In 2009 that doubled, and the disease claimed its first human victims. That has prompted the Dutch authorities to order the destruction of all pregnant animals testing positively for Q-fever, including healthy but vaccinated ones. Farms marked as “infected” face breeding bans and may not buy more animals....

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