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9857: Fw: anthrax in Haiti (fwd)
From: Daniel Wolff <email@example.com>
The following is from the November 1-15 CounterPunch, a monthly newsletter
that can be found at www.counterpunch.org
Anthrax as Normalcy:
500 Cases a Year
Imagine if the anthrax attacks had killed nearly 500 people, instead of the
four in the US who have died from the bacteria so far. Consider further the
outrage that would most certainly erupt had it come out that the US
government knew about the anthrax outbreak in advance, but failed to take
any action to protect people from the disease. Then factor in the big drug
companies, which have refused to administer out life-saving vaccines because
to do so might undermine their lucrative patents.
Sound far-fetched? Hardly. This is a rough description of what has been
going on in Haiti since the mid-1970s, where nearly 500 people contract
anthrax every year. You can search the major media and the US government in
vain for coverage of what can only be called an on-going crisis. At most,
CounterPunch has been able to locate a few press releases from the State
Department warning US tourists about this danger and a move by the Commerce
Department to restrict the import of certain goods made from animal hides,
though not major league baseballs, which are manufactured in Haiti by
workers making about twenty cents an hour.
Here is the text of an advisory from the Commerce Department : "Consumers
who may have goatskin items such as bongo drums, wineskins, hassocks, small
rugs, decorative wall coverings (mosaics), 'balancers', ladies' purses or
unfinished goatskin hides known to have been imported from Haiti should
place the products in a sealed plastic bag and call a local or State health
department for disposal instructions. Consumers should not attempt to
sterilize the product, incinerate it, or throw it away because of the risk
of additional contamination."
The fact that so many American textile corporations have moved their
sweatshop operations to Haiti to exploit pathetically low wages doesn't
seemed to have prompted much concern for the health of their workers.
Indeed, the only detailed analysis of the situation that we can find comes
from the college of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University.
According, to the LSU study, "27% to 50% of goatskin products are
contaminated. During 1973?77 there were 1,587 human anthrax cases reported
in the southern peninsula or 317 per year; 85 cases in 1983; and 1,396 cases
during 1985 to 1988, or 349 per year." Then, amazingly, between 1989 and
1993, no one even surveyed human anthrax cases. When the surveys resumed
again in 1993, it turned out that in that year more than 100 people
contracted the disease. In 1995, 449 people contracted anthrax. During these
years, more than 700,000 cows and goats were vaccinated against the disease.
No humans were given vaccinations.
"We have an emergency medical clinic in Cap Haitien, dealing mostly with
burns, but have been working in the north of Haiti for over 30 years," Eva
DeHart, of For Haiti With Love tells CounterPunch. "Anthrax is normally
ingested in Haiti. The animal gets sick, they slaughter it in the market
quickly and unsuspecting victims take it home, cook it, eat it, and because
of their already malnourished condition and lack of available medical care
they die. They also contract the disease from the factories. An entire
family on our support program died of pulmonary anthrax . They lived down
wind from a tannery when they were tanning infected hides. I can't remember
a time where you were not advised to avoid skins and hides with hair for
items being bought to bring home, and we have been working down there for 30
years. It is a poor country, you just accept certain restrictions for your