Animal Disease and Human Health Risk
Cow AIDS (BIV)
In 1991 the Wall Street Journal captured the attention of its readership with a health
segment entitled "AIDS Cousin Infects Cattle."128 The Journal went on to depreciate any
potential risk from "Cow AIDS." Their reporting was accurate; so far, medical research
has not raised any grave concerns about this disease.129
However, there are worrisome features about the virus. Some evidence of immune alteration
has been observed in infected cows.130 Cross-species transmission of the virus to sheep,
rabbits, and goats has also been demonstrated.131 This combination of factors raises
similar concerns to those I have expressed with regard to the bovine leukemia virus.
In view of this, combined with the reality of the long incubation period of HIV, I raise
concern about the long-term health effects of this agent, particularly if it ultimately
proves to be transmissible to humans.
Since BIV can affect the immune function of cattle and can cross species boundaries, it
seems prudent to take measures to avoid this virus until we are certain there is no human
risk. In fact some, such as Jeremy Rifkind from the Foundation for Economic Trends, have
advocated that BIV-infected cows should not be milked or taken to slaughter until the
long-term human health implications of this virus are clarified. I am sure that many in
the livestock industry feel this is unnecessary. But in other countries such as
Switzerland, this is exactly what is being done, as described in Figure 22: Switzerland's
Protection Against BIV.
Switzerland has also been concerned about the similarities between BIV and HIV. Until
long-term studies clarify the issues, they do not want to expose their citizens to these
infectious agents found in cattle or their milk.
Most Food Poisoning Involves Animal Products
Animal products are not the only products that can be contaminated with bacteria.
However, the vast majority of infected foods are red meat, dairy products, fowl, eggs,
and seafood, according to the Center for Disease Control's reports on infectious illnesses
from foods. A significant decrease in these serious diseases would occur if a vegetarian
diet were more widely adopted.
A summary list of the aforementioned diseases of animals that are a threat to the health
of humans is shown in Figure 23: List of Aforementioned Diseases that are a Risk to Human
128 Ingersoll B. AIDS Cousin Infects Cattle; No Danger Seen. The Wall Street Journal. 1991.
Friday, May 31.
129 Van Der Maaten MJ, Whetstone CA. Studies of Cattle Naturally and Experimentally Infected
with Bovine Lentivirus. Immunobiology of Viral Infections. Proc. 3rd Congress Europ. Soc. Vet.
Virol. 1995. P. 353-357.
130 Van Der Maaten MJ. Update of Bovine Leukosis Virus and Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus.
TNAVC 1993 Proceedings. Pages 614-615.
131 Archambault D, Nadin-Davis S, et al. The Bovine Immunodefeciency Virus: 1990-1992 Update.
Vet Res 1993;24(2):179-187.
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