I’ve learned a lot on how to live as safely as I can with the COVID-19 virus sweeping the country and globe but what I hadn’t learned about in depth was why this virus and/or other viruses originate and do what they do. I set out to learn more this week and to sum it up, I was disturbed, frustrated, and not surprised. Here I will share what I learned and my thoughts on how we can live as healthy as we can.
I heard the term, “wet markets,” used a lot since the outbreak of COVID-19 and being the suspected origin so I wanted to find a definition and MedicineNet provided a clear explanation –
A live animal market, a common sight in many areas of the world and a source of influenza viruses and other infectious disease agents for human beings. Wet markets sell live poultry, fish, reptiles, and mammals of every kind.
You can find many examples of the conditions of these wet markets and factory farms online. They are quite disturbing.
I found a couple excellent resources to explain this further and how influenza spreads like COVID-19. The first was The Exam Room Podcast via The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine where in a recent interview with Wendy Orent, anthropologist specializing in health and disease, shared the following perspective:
- These markets are in enclosed buildings housing overcrowded cages full of a variety of animals…some I’ve never heard of before
- Viruses can spread from species to species (generalist virus) and then to humans
- After the SARS outbreak in 2003 Chinese government put a temporary ban on the markets until the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus was contained
- Many more examples of viruses originating from animal factories like the swine flu outbreak in a pig factory farm in Veracruz, Mexico in 2009 exist. There are too many examples of these and they are growing…
- When asked if outbreaks like COVID-19 will continue to happen, she stated, “oh certainly, I don’t think there is any doubt.” She went on to ponder, “how many people have to die before they get the picture?”
- The overcrowded conditions and volume in animal factories promotes the deadliness of these diseases spreading
- “It’s not just influenza…every time you pack in animals you are going to get outbreaks of disease…we don’t learn. We don’t learn that what causes deadly disease is packing animals together.”
- Final question posed to Wendy was if we don’t make these changes (closing animal markets/factory farms) what is the probability of this (COVID-19) or worse happening again? Her response was, “I think it’s 100%. Keep these markets up and I think it’s 100% it will happen again. You get the evolutions of these diseases again and again and again…”
She thinks there isn’t any doubt this will continue to happen so what else could I find here? Just this week Dr. Michael Greger from nutritionfacts.org released a video presentation he delivered over a decade ago titled, Pandemics: History & Prevention. He started out the presentation stating, “The two greatest threats facing humanity today according to the United Nations are climate change and emerging infectious disease.” He provided an informative historical perspective and what we would likely face if we don’t make changes. What’s crazy is the frequency of these diseases was in steep decline and then something happened… Key points Dr. Greger made:
- By 1968 the age of infectious disease was thought to be over. The U.S. Surgeon General declared, “The war against infectious disease has been won.” In 1975, the Dean of Yale University Medical School stated, “no new diseases to be discovered.”
- Something happened around and after 1975 where deaths increased dramatically. “New diseases started to emerge and reemerge at a rate unheard of in the annals of medicine. More than 30 new diseases in 30 years…According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine what they call a catastrophic storm of microbial threats.”
- These emerging plagues almost all come from animals…what has changed recently to make this sky rocket?
- “We have changed the way animals live.” He shared over half the chickens and pigs in the world are in factory farms in crowded cages.
- The World Health Organization, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health met for a joint consultation to discuss the key underlying causes of the emerging infectious diseases that are spreading at such a rapid pace. The number one risk factor they concluded is the increased demand for animal protein.
- Further explained from the FAO, “Chicken to chicken spread particularly where assisted by this intensive husbandry conditions causes the virus to shift, adapt to more severe highly pathogenic type of infection.” The conditions are so bad with feces, poor air quality, no sunlight, and vulnerable immune systems it’s pretty easy to get this rolling…
- The Executive Editor of Poultry Magazine wrote an editorial and explained, “The prospect of a virulent flu to which we have absolutely no resistance is frightening. However, to me, the threat is much greater to the poultry industry. I’m not as worried about the U.S. human population dying from bird flu as I am that there will be no chickens to eat.”
- Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) described what a H1N1 pandemic could look like. He said, “duplicate the tsunami (2004 South Asia) in every major urban center, rural community around the planet simultaneously, add in the paralyzing fear and panic of contagion and we begin to get some sense of pandemic influenza.”
- Dr. Greger closes with two points. The first point he shared was an example of how we could be living in a pandemic and it’s playing out exactly how we are living today. He finished with a quote from the World Health Organization. “The bottom line is that humans have to think about how they treat their animals, how they farm them, and how they market them – basically the whole relationship between the animal kingdom and human kingdom is coming under stress.”
This was 10+ years ago…and we’ve only gotten worse…What an overview Dr. Greger delivered. That really helped build my understanding.
Finally I turned to one of my favorite resources, Dr. Zach Bush. Dr. Bush is one of the few triple board-certified physicians in the country, with expertise in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Hospice/Palliative care. He has been a physician and biomedical researcher for 17 years, devised chemotherapy treatments and through his research has uncovered breakthrough findings. Just one brilliant man…
For a baseline on which he builds on here, I recommend reading a previous blog, Chronic Illness and Inflammation Explored. Our overall health is directly tied to the health of our gut microbiome and lining and by consuming animal products and glyphosate (chemical used on land to kill weeds) we are damaging it severely. This has led to the explosion of various chronic illnesses including heart disease (#1 killer in America and globally), cancers, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, and the list goes on…
- This is only going to get worse (more of these viruses, fires, powerful hurricanes, etc.). “This is the collapse of biology on the planet and the slightest of warm ups.”
- In a paper that came out last week analyzing the autopsies of the Chinese who passed away from COVID-19, the unifying risk of fatality from this virus is an unbalanced microbiome in the gut. This breaks down the gut lining promoting immune system vulnerability. The body then can’t fight hard enough against these viruses and diseases.
- What they found in those that have passed away in China is a lack of the bacteria that goes missing when you remove fiber from your diet
- Fiber in your diet is the building blocks of the microsystems within your gut
He covers a lot more in depth and he does state this is all preventable….that’s good and bad news…will we change our behavior? I covered this in more depth in the blog, Fight COVID-19 by Boosting Your Immune Function, but what I find perplexing is that the projected deaths to COVID-19 in the U.S. will not come close to the number of deaths from heart disease each year yet we don’t hear much about it and/or the underlying causes to what starts these viruses and chronic illnesses to begin with.
Estimates on total fatalities for COVID-19 seem to vary quite a bit for good reason. Dr. Osterholm estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S and yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the faces of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 fatalities in the U.S. That compares to 647,457 deaths last year of cardiovascular disease reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that number is 17.9 million globally reported by WHO.
I heard a description a few years ago that we live in a health management system, not a health promoting system. When this is over, will we do anything to address the root causes of these viruses and chronic illnesses that are increasing at alarming rates? The wet markets and factory farms are also causing environmental catastrophes. I hope some productive energy is put to work here…
What can we do to live healthy in this context?
- Read the previous blog on boosting immune function, Fight COVID-19 by Boosting Your Immune Function
- As Dr. Bush highlights and to be more specific, eat more fiber! Read a previous blog, The Focus Should Be On Fiber, to see how much and examples of the foods we should be consuming = plant-based
- Use Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist – as he states, “Everything we should ideally strive to fit into our daily routine for optimal health and longevity.”
- Use the Environmental World Group’s, Dirty Dozen & Clean 15, list of produce we should be buying organic (Dirty Dozen due to pesticides) and those having the least pesticides (Clean 15) if you want or need to pass on organic
- Exercise – there are many things we can do to fit exercise in on a daily basis
- Sleep – I curated a few things a while back if interested in exploring
I close with my pondering thoughts…
I am quite skeptical if behaviors will change to address the United Nations’ two greatest threats facing humanity today – climate change and emerging infectious disease. That along with the meteoric rise of chronic illnesses due to the same root causes. These issues have been here for a long time and they are getting rapidly worse…
I will continue to focus on what I can control. I will seek to learn, provide education and resources on these topics. I’m also interested in how I can have a greater impact on the issues above and will look for those opportunities. If you have ideas and would like to discuss, please send me a note.
Hopefully if you know me or have read my blogs over the last two plus years you know I am looking for positives in situations and people, and solutions to challenges we face. This is one big time uphill challenge…
– Add Health to Your Life
*Featured Blog photo taken of Clearwater Beach, closed due to COVID-19. A very eerie sight indeed…