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More Swine Flu Cases: Experts Warned it Was Coming

May 4, 2009

Las Vegas, NV – As the swine flu scare enters its third week, some experts point to longstanding warning signs that such an outbreak was likely. The virus has closed 300 schools across 19 states and, in Nevada, more than a hundred suspected cases are being studied by health officials.

All these H1N1 or "swine flu" viral infections come as little surprise to Bob Martin, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group. Last year, the group warned that industrial pig farms were likely breeding grounds for new strains of the flu, says Martin.

"A year ago, we released a report and said, this is a very strong worry we have. We really, at the time, were saying it's not a matter of 'if,' but 'when.'"

The two-year, independent study by Martin's organization suggests that antibiotics be used sparingly on farm animals so they don't become resistant, and that farm workers be tested regularly for communicable diseases. Martin says keeping animals in close proximity and warm conditions makes it easy for pigs, poultry and cattle to pass viruses back and forth - and then onto farm workers.

"Like viral incubators – there might be 10,000 to 15,000 pigs in one facility, and prolonged exposure of the workers, staying in the barn in the environment with the pigs."

California is one of the states phasing in new industrial animal farming rules, including requiring more space for animals. Authorities were working Friday to determine how a two-year-old Nevada girl contracted the flu virus. The Pew report is online, at www.ncifap.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV