Many amongst us have started to ask questions regarding meat-borne diseases, and on the extent to which we can fall prey to it. As the benefits of alternative plant-based meats and plant-based foods have been ever-increasing, it is important for all of us to look further beyond social media influencers, the hype and aggressive marketing. What does science say about meat viruses? Are your family and your health at risk?
Viruses Present In Meats Can Affect Human Health
Unlike E.coli and other bacterial food-borne diseases, viruses don’t have a cell structure and instead need the help of a host cell to replicate. The way in which bacteria can reside in meat, cannot be followed by viruses. However, viruses can make use of animals as carriers.
The way in which humans contract the virus is by means of eating the infected animal and consuming the contaminated water or coming into contact with the infected blood or feces. Once human hosts are infected, they can spread the meat viruses to others as well. Transmission can happen in the same way in which common cold or flu spread or with contact with an infected person’s feces or blood.
These meat viruses can be the cause of severe lethal diseases that debilitate, weaken and ultimately kill if not attended to. Here are some of the outbreaks in diseases that are credited to viruses in meats.
The Animal-Human Connection: Meat Viruses
There are strains of bird flu (H5N1 and H7N9) and swine flu (H1N1) that can cause a severe infection of the respiratory system in humans. These have symptoms that are close in resemblance to those of regular flu and in many of the cases, it can be severe.
Bird flu is naturally found in the population of aquatic birds. It can infect domesticated poultry birds. The H5N1 strain first garnered public attention back in 1997 when there was an outbreak that surfaced in China.
It surfaced in Chinese poultry farms and the mortality rate of the infection is around 60%, but thankfully it doesn’t spread easily between humans.
Swine Flu was traced back to a factory farm in North Carolina and has infected close to 61 million people from 2009-2010. It is believed that close to 12,500 people died as a result and the CDC (Centre For Disease Control and Prevention) placed the final death toll to anywhere between 151,700 to 575,400 people. Now there is herd immunity and forms of vaccine, and because of this, it is considered no more than a seasonal flu strain.
Pork and shellfish have been cited time and again as the potential carriers of hepatitis B and hepatitis E, respectively. Both of the infections cause joint, pain, fever, digestive distress, jaundice and severely affect the health of the liver.
Infection is contracted by means of drinking from contaminated water sources or eating shellfish that is harvested from contaminated water sources. Most of the patients make a recovery from this disease but there are cases where the damage from Hepatitis E has been long-term.
Infection from pathogens and viruses make up 20% of all human cancer cases. This is what scientific research has to say on the matter:
- Bovine polyomavirus plays a key role in the development of breast, lung and colon cancer
- Viruses in chicken have shown associations with human cancers and are also shown to heavily influence the formation of plaque in arteries (atherosclerotic plaque formation).
- As many as 37% of all breast cancer cases are the result of exposure to the bovine leukaemia virus. The virus exists in all of the country’s large factory farm operation—Yes, it is found in 100% of all such facilities.
Viruses are more resilient and can survive cooking as well, unlike bacteria pathogens. Meat that is cooked rare has an even higher risk. There are viruses that are found in milk and eggs as well.
How Can You Avoid Viruses Found In Meats?
You can stick to consuming a more plant-based diet and completely avoid the risk of contracting viruses in the meat. Here are some of the precautions that you can take:
- Wear gloves when you are touching the meat.
- Make sure to clean the meat preparation areas thoroughly with the help of a diluted bleach solution.
- Make sure to separate the utensils and areas for meat preparation.
- Make sure to inspect the foods thoroughly before you make a purchase.
- Thoroughly wash all of the vegetables and fruits before you consume it.
You don’t need to be a genius to figure this out; exercise common sense and good eating habits and you should be safe from many food-borne viruses. Go for unprocessed, whole foods and you are well on your way to reducing the possibility of exposing yourself to viruses. Go Plant-based!