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Trump takes the gloves off versus Kavanaugh accusers. Also on the Wednesday rundown: rural areas reap benefits from Medicaid expansion; a two-generation approach to helping young Louisiana parents; and a new documentary on the impact of climate change in North Carolina.

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H1N1 Officially in NM, Calls Heard for Both Reform and Calm

May 4, 2009

Santa Fe – The H1N1 influenza virus, commonly known as "swine flu," has officially spread to New Mexico, with one confirmed case in an 18-year-old Valencia County man.

While pork producers are working hard to spread the word that their product is safe to eat, the Pew Environment Group points out that there also is room for improvement in animal health and living conditions, particularly on large, industrial farms. Bob Martin, senior officer at Pew, says they released a report last year predicting the possibility of a fast-moving new flu strain.

"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.'"

Crowded conditions make industrial farms breeding grounds for new viruses and bacteria that can easily be spread to humans, according to the two-year study of pork and poultry production.

The owner of the farm in Mexico that's been indicated as a possible source of the H1N1 outbreak says it's impossible the virus came from the operation, because testing shows the animals there are virus-free. No matter where it originated, however, Martin says the nature of industrial farming means health scares will continue.

"I think we have to change our food animal production system or this will just keep happening. The system itself is sick, and it's a little bit like treating a disease symptom without treating the cause of the disease."

A suspected H1N1 case in Santa Fe County was found not to be swine flu - 14 other probable cases in Eddy, Hidalgo and Luna counties are still being investigated.

The Pew Environment Group report also notes that, in New Mexico, irrigation for the feed that keeps industrial operations going has already depleted one of the state's main aquifers by half. It can be viewed online at www.ncifap.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM