Nebraska is overwhelmingly an agricultural state, and as such, there is increasing awareness of zoonotic disease risks among its population. Nebraska has already experienced a large-scale outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza in poultry and a confirmed human case of influenza H3N2v. Additional cases are of concern given the large swine herd, the large number of youth raising and exhibiting pigs at fairs, and robust attendance at local and the state fairs. However, the zoonotic risk is not limited to variant influenza and includes other potentially high-impact pathogens such as MRSA, Salmonella spp., E. coli O157:H7, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter, and Q-fever.
However, the culture of the large number of youth in agriculture presents an opportunity to mitigate this risk and engage the next generation of One Health practitioners. In Nebraska, 1 in 3 age-eligible youth across all 93 counties are enrolled in 4-H, for a total enrollment reaching approximately 140,000 youth with the support of over 12,000 volunteers. These youth, ages 5–18, participate in 4-H through a variety of delivery modes including: clubs, camps, afterschool programs, school enrichment, and special interest programs. In addition, Nebraska FAA Association has a current membership of over 9,000 members in 189 chapters. Nebraska FFA members are enrolled in agricultural education courses, conduct a Supervised Agricultural Experience Program and can participate in a variety of FFA competitions and activities.
Participation in science, agriculture, and livestock projects remain a key component of youth development. However, dedicated in-depth resources of key issues related to zoonotic diseases, epidemiology, and biosecurity are currently lacking in Nebraska. Existing curricula do not fully address emerging threats such as influenza H3N2v for which youth in agricultural organizations have specifically been determined to be an at-risk group. There are also gaps in presenting One Health careers.
The materials on this site have been adapted from modular educational materials from our interstate partners to be used in 4-H, FFA, and other agricultural educator activities across all ages of participants, to improve awareness of influenza H3N2v, HPAI, and zoonotic diseases, and developing an understanding of what role animal owners and caretakers have in preventing zoonotic disease.