maryn“Scary Disease Girl”: Maryn McKennaMaryn McKenna is arguably the premier U.S. public health journalist. Not many on the beat can boast a bio like this:

Maryn McKenna’s newsroom nickname is Scary Disease Girl, and she earned it. She has reported from inside a field hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a village on Thailand’s west coast that was erased by the Indian Ocean tsunami, a CDC team investigating the anthrax-letter attacks on Capitol Hill, a graveyard within the Arctic Circle that held victims of the 1918 flu, a malaria hospital in Malawi, and a polio-eradication team in India. She helped uncover the first cases of Gulf War Syndrome and trigger the first Congressional hearings on the illness, and her stories on a small Midwestern town’s cancer clusters helped residents win a nuclear-harm lawsuit against the U.S. government.

(“Scary Disease Girl”? I wonder what they call me at Grist HQ…)

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In recent years, McKenna has turned her attention to MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant staph strain that kills 19,000 Americans every year — more than AIDS. As readers of my Meat Wagon series of posts know all too well, MRSA has a major food angle: Today, as much as 70 percent of antibiotics consumed in the United States go into concentrated-animal feedlot operations, or CAFOs, and these vast, factory-scale animal farms have been shown to harbor a novel MRSA strain.

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In this edition of Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, Maryn and I discussed her new book, Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA.

(The podcast is a production of Edible Radio; it and other interesting food-politics podcasts can be downloaded here.)