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A news release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
Lincoln—Two new probable cases of H1N1 (swine-origin) influenza have been identified in Nebraska, and the first probable case has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, according to Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“Nebraska is reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that our public health lab has detected two additional probable cases of H1N1 flu,” Dr. Schaefer said.
The first probable case was reported on Wednesday and on Thursday it was confirmed by the CDC.
“This was not unexpected,” Dr. Schaefer said. “Although we expect more cases to be confirmed, some of the probable tests may in fact be returned as negative for H1N1 by the CDC. It’s an evolving situation and we will keep the public abreast of the numbers.”
The Douglas County Health Department and the Sarpy/Cass Department of Health and Wellness are working on tracking contacts of the probable cases and to see if they are experiencing any signs of illness. Tracking contacts has already been done for the confirmed case. The Douglas County case is a resident of Missouri and will ultimately be counted as a Missouri case. The other is a resident of Sarpy County.
The Missouri case is a 19-year-old man who is in Nebraska to obtain health care for another health condition. He is hospitalized. The Sarpy County resident is a woman in her 60s who is recovering at home.
“DHHS and the local health departments are working together closely,” Dr. Schaefer said.
Staff members at DHHS are in constant contact with the state Public Health Laboratory, local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and colleagues in other states, she said. “There is a lot of work to do, a lot of information to digest, and many conference calls to participate in to get more information. This is an evolving situation and we are learning more as things develop.”
DHHS released information about specimens that are either at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, that have been sent to the CDC for confirmation, or have been confirmed.
Today DHHS is reporting:
*Pending public health tests: 20
**Probable cases: 2 Douglas County (1), Sarpy County (1)
***Confirmed cases: 1
That brings the total number of probable cases to date to three, one of which has been confirmed.
Specimens from these probable cases will be sent to the CDC for confirmation. Results are expected within the next 24-48 hours.
People should take precautions to avoid illness, Dr. Schaefer said.
For any flu-like illness:
In a recent article from the Utah Extension Service, they advised that because hands are covered with millions of germs or microbes, washing is a crucial, yet often overlooked behavior that is essential for food safety, disease prevention and personal health.
The majority of Americans underestimate the potential seriousness of food-borne illness and the importance of hand washing to prevent it.
Wirthlin Worldwide, an international research firm, conducted a hand-washing observational and telephone survey for the Bayer Corporation Pharmaceutical Division, in association with the American Society for Microbiology. They found that people do not wash their hands as often as they think they do. The telephone survey found that 94 percent of respondents claimed they always wash up after using the restroom. The observational survey conducted in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and San Francisco found that only 68 percent, in fact, did so.
The Soap and Detergent Association’s 2002 National Cleaning Survey also revealed that 40 percent of American workers did not wash their hands often enough or long enough. In addition, the survey found 58 percent of employers didn’t encourage hand washing in the workplace.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. The center estimates there are 78 million cases of food-borne illness with 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year. They link poor hand hygiene to 34 percent of the documented cases of food-borne illness.
The 24-hour flu, or norovirus, is one illness that spreads quickly from person to person when hands are not washed after using the restroom. Any surface the ill individual touches, such as doorknobs, phones, faucet handles or computer keyboards, may be contaminated. When a healthy person comes in contact with this surface, they can carry the virus to the food and water they consume. Hands spread germs so easily because their warm, moist environment is a harbor for germs. And since hands are always in contact with various objects, from noses to doorknobs, they pick up germs as well as spread them.
To help remove harmful germs that can easily be spread, consider these tips.
When you combine the words pandemic and swine together it’s not surprising that people will somehow induce that eating pork may cause you to get the flu.
These types of outbreaks will become more and more common for three reasons:
—The population is growing worldwide and poverty more prevalent in both developed and developing countries. Add the global financial meltdown and the resources aren’t there for things like public health, sanitation and proper nutrition, of which all three can weaken the immune system making people more susceptible to disease.
—More than half of the earth’s population is now concentrated in urban settings, such as Greater Mexico City, which has a population of more than 22 million people. Life, as in nature, disease can spread rapidly in populations that are tightly confined.
—Global warming and a more mobile population that travel from one large urban center to another will allow outbreaks to spread quickly and over a larger area. As climates change, invasive species and more warm weather diseases, such as the West Nile virus, will
According to Purdue University agricultural economist, Chris Hurt, it could take weeks – or longer – before U.S. pork producers recover from export restrictions tied to a worldwide influenza outbreak.
With China, Russia and Ukraine refusing to accept pork from U.S. states and other nations increasing their screening of pork imports, hundreds of millions of pounds of pork could wind up in the U.S. retail market at discounted prices, Chris Hurt said. That means lower prices for a pork industry already reeling in a tough economic climate, he said.
“This couldn’t get much worse for the pork industry,” Hurt said. “You’ve got other countries starting to follow the lead of Russia and China by limiting their import of our pork. Then there are the consumers worldwide who are linking the word ‘swine’ to pork, even though this influenza strain did not come from swine. And then there’s the world economy in general.”
At the time of Hurt’s comments, the H1N1 influenza virus has been blamed for up to 159 deaths in Mexico and one in the United States. Although commonly called “swine” flu, the virus is a new strain combining parts of bird, human and pig influenza viruses. Nearly 70 people in seven states, including Indiana, have been infected with the virus.
Although no cases of the new H1N1 strain have been reported in pigs and properly handled and cooked pork is safe to eat, the pork industry is feeling the brunt of public misunderstanding about the virus, Hurt said.
“China and Russia represented 27.4 percent of our pork exports in 2008. Any loss of those sales to those important markets will lower pork prices,” Hurt said. “May lean hog futures have fallen 8 percent since Friday (April 24), closing at about $63.30 per hundredweight, or more than $5 lower.
“This is, in essence, the market anticipation of what this flu event means over the next few months. The concerns are that ‘swine’ flu could reduce U.S. pork exports, that U.S. consumers could reduce pork consumption and, more broadly, that the flu could cause a slowing of world economic growth, which would reduce demand for food products in general.”
China and Russia are the second and fourth largest international buyers of U.S. pork, respectively. Together, the two nations imported 1.28 billion pounds of the nearly 5 billion pounds of pork exported from the United States in 2008.
American hog farmers produced 23.3 billion pounds of pork this past year.
H1N1 fallout is just the latest setback for pork producers, Hurt said.
“The pork industry has been losing money since the fall of 2007,” he said. “Producers are near break-even right now. We had hoped that producers would return to profitability by May, but that isn’t likely to happen now.”
The flu outbreak is the third major shock to the pork industry in the past 18 months, Hurt said. Hog farmers were beset by sharply rising feed prices in late 2007 and 2008 and the global financial crisis this past fall, he said.
“The pork industry uses 28 percent of the grains fed to livestock and 23 percent of the protein meals fed to livestock,” Hurt said. “If this flu event causes demand for pork to drop, that means less usage of corn and soybean meal, with downward impacts on those prices, as well.”
As bad as it is for the pork industry, Hurt doubts that hog farmers will be hit as hard by the H1N1 outbreak as beef producers were by the U.S. mad cow disease cases in late 2003 or the poultry industry by avian influenza in 2005-06.
“Both beef and poultry exports were negatively impacted,” Hurt said. “In fact, U.S. beef exports have only recovered to about 75 percent of their 2003 levels.
“Pork producers should not panic. The immediate reaction of humans and markets to situations like we have now is often more severe in the short term than the long term.”
The new viral outbreak called the North American flu or swine flu has some people nervous about eating pork.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to reiterate to a public concerned about a hybrid influenza outbreak that pork is safe to eat.
“According to scientists at USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swine flu viruses are not transmitted by food, so you cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products.”
But the swine flu has already had an impact on U.S. crop markets, according to a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.
“In the first trading session following the announcement of incidences of swine flu in Mexico and the United States, corn, soybean, and wheat futures declined sharply,” said Darrel Good. “Market participants reportedly are concerned that the threat of swine flu will reduce pork demand, stimulating further liquidation of hog numbers and resulting in reduced feed demand.”
Such negative reaction, Good noted, is typical with episodes that create so much uncertainty.
“Russia reportedly announced restriction on pork imports from Mexico and selected origins in the United States,” he said. “Restrictions by other importers would not be surprising.
“Health experts indicate that swine flu is not transmitted to humans through properly prepared pork. The hope is that the initial knee-jerk reaction will be followed by more thoughtful responses. The extent of reported cases of swine flu will be important in determining the depth of demand worries.”
Good said a number of other fundamental factors continue to influence crop prices. For soybeans, the Census Bureau reported that the domestic crush during March totaled 144.7 million bushels, 7.2 percent smaller than the crush of a year earlier.
During the first seven months of the 2008-09 marketing year, the domestic crush has totaled 987.1 million bushels, 9.6 percent less than crushed during the same period last year. For the year, the USDA has projected the domestic crush at 1.635 billion bushels, 9.2 percent less than the crush in the previous marketing year.
“Soybean exports and export sales remain robust as Chinese buying remains strong in the face of a smaller South American crop, particularly in Argentina,” said Good. “USDA’s weekly export inspection report showed cumulative marketing year exports through April 23 at one billion bushels.
“During the first six months of the marketing year, Census Bureau estimates of soybean exports exceeded USDA estimates by 42 million bushels. If that margin persists, exports during the last 18.5 weeks of the marketing year need to total only 170 million bushels to reach the USDA’s projection of 1.21 billion.”
As of April 16, he added, unshipped export sales were reported at 148 million bushels. It appears that exports will reach or perhaps exceed the USDA projection.
For corn, cumulative export inspections through April 23 totaled 1.08 billion bushels. During the first half of the marketing year, Census Bureau corn export estimates exceeded USDA inspection estimates by 35 million bushels.
“If that margin persists, exports during the final 18.5 weeks of the year need to total 585 million bushels—31.5 million per week—to reach the USDA projection of 1.7 billion bushels,” said Good. “As of April 16, unshipped export sales were reported at 388 million bushels.
“New sales need to average about one-half million per week. That increase in the weekly rate of shipments and sales over the past month is encouraging and suggests that the USDA projection is reachable.”
The more troubling development for corn comes from California where actions that could limit the growth of ethanol consumption in that state are under consideration.
“While decisions are not final, the initial indication is that California’s calculation of the indirect land use implication of corn-based ethanol increases the ‘carbon footprint’ of ethanol and makes it less attractive in reducing carbon emissions in the state,” he said.
“Any restriction on ethanol use would not occur in the near term, but raises concern about longer-term ethanol demand in California. Lower crude oil and gasoline prices currently being experienced also provide a tone to ethanol demand.”
On the supply side, corn planting remains slower than norma,l and weather forecasts suggest rain delays will continue into early May.
“The market has been slow to show concerns about the slow pace of planting,” said Good. “The lack of concern stems in part from the apparent lack of production loss from late planting and re-planting in many areas last year. A year ago, however, the corn crop benefited from nearly ideal weather conditions in July and a favorable growing season that continued well into September.”
The large number of factors influencing the corn and soybean markets suggests that prices will likely continue to be very volatile, but extremely difficult to anticipate.
“For the 2009 crop, pricing decisions can still be anchored to the spring price guarantees for crop revenue insurance,” he said. “Spikes well above those guarantees provide an opportunity for some small sales.”