Feeding the Chickens
George Vicat Cole
Oil on canvas
10 by 14.1/2 inches
People are living longer than ever before and there are more healthy centegenarians now than ever. We don't have as many communicable diseases as our grandparents did because we have antibiotics and we know more about hygiene. But in spite of this, we are a nation of hypochondriacs and we are afraid of everything. If a disease doesn't exist, we make one up. (Fibromyalgia, anyone?) Today we received the following bulletin at work, and when I read it, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
You've heard about the chicken that crossed the road. But have you heard the one about the chickens travelling down the road? It's no laughing matter. Crates of chickens being trucked along the highway in the back of an open truck can shoot a bunch of nasty bacteria into the cars behind them, researchers have found. Drivers stuck behind such a truck should "pass them quickly," advised study co-author Ana Rule, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Even so, it's not clear that germy debris will make you sick. None of the scientists who studied this problem got sick. And the disease-causing bacteria in question are normally spread by food or water, not air. Rule and her colleagues at the Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on the so-called Delmarva Peninsula, a coastal area that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The region is a chicken mecca, with one of the highest concentrations of broiler chickens per hectare in the nation.
The researchers chose a 27-kilometre stretch of highway connecting chicken farms in Maryland to a processing plant to the south in Accomac, Va. They rode in four-door cars with all the windows down and the air conditioning off. They checked the cars for bacteria after driving when there were no chicken trucks around. And they checked for bacteria after 10 trips behind flatbed trucks carrying crates of broiler chickens. They collected bacteria from air samples, door handles and soda cans inside the car. In all the truck chases, they found high levels of certain bacteria, including some that are resistant to antibiotics. The study, released this week, is being published in the first issue of the Journal of Infection and Public Health, and it's billed as the first to look at whether poultry trucking exposes people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. ... CDC
Oh, gosh. And here I thought the only time I should be afraid of chicken was when the Cafeteria Nazi serves it on her menu.