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Influenza Education among Youth in Agriculture Program
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Zoonoses (also known as zoonotic diseases) are diseases that can be shared between animals and people. More than half of all infections that people get are spread by animals. One Health recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. The goal of One Health is to encourage multiple disciplines and sectors to work together - locally, nationally, and globally - to achieve the best health for people and animals living in our shared environment.

Since, influenza A H3N2 variant viruses (H3N2v) were first detected in people in 2011, outbreak investigations have identified illnesses, primarily in children, linked to close contact with pigs at agricultural fairs. These illnesses show a need to educate youth about zoonotic diseases and how they can spread between animals and people.

To address this need, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) to promote One Health collaborations between federal and state public health and animal health authorities and state youth agriculture groups through a program called the Influenza Education Among Youth in Agriculture. This innovative program educates youth about zoonotic infections, delivers prevention messages to keep people and animals safe and healthy, and strengthens One Health networks among state human and animal health departments and agricultural communities across rural America.

The primary goals of this project are to help empower millions of youth in agricultural organizations like 4-H and FFA about ways to enjoy animals while reducing the risk of infection with zoonotic diseases and facilitate more effective and efficient response to important public health issues, such as outbreaks, by strengthening relationships among key stakeholders. As part of the program, CDC and multiple organizations, including state health departments, state departments of agriculture, 4-H programs, and other partners, work together using a One Health approach to educate youth to help protect the health of animals and people.

Background and Evolution of Project

In 2012, CDC and USDA developed a pilot program with Georgia 4-H to develop and implement educational tools about public health, zoonotic diseases, and youth safety around animals, operationalizing the One Health approach. Short-term goals included encouragement of peer-to-peer education and youth participation as “citizen scientists” in their communities. Long-term goals were to create sustainable and lasting relationships between youth, public health, and animal health agencies.

The second phase of the project created a transition to broader national engagement. In 2014, CDC and USDA partnered with CSTE to formalize the “Influenza Education among Youth in Agriculture Pilot Project.” Through this effort, CDC, USDA, and CSTE provided technical assistance to eight state and county health departments to launch state-owned collaborations with 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Projects included the Georgia 4-H “Friends Magazine: Be a Zoonotic Disease Detective,” communication campaigns to improve biosecurity at fairs, web-based education modules, workshops, and educational toolkits for zoonoses.

In 2016, CDC and CSTE awarded grants to five states to build upon successes and expand the program’s reach to new jurisdictions. Educational initiatives developed through this collaboration included communication campaigns, virtual training modules, interactive workshops, and web-based certifications reaching children of all ages and adults involved in fairs and other agricultural events. Partnerships developed and strengthened through this program were leveraged to facilitate rapid response activities after identification of fair-associated H3N2v illnesses in the summer of 2016.

In 2017, seven states received funding from the program. Ongoing work focuses on strengthening evaluation efforts, as well as identifying platforms to share tools and resources developed through this program with other public health partners and the public.

In 2018, 8 states were awarded funding. Encouraging interstate collaboration is a primary focus for this year to increase youth outreach and foster expansive relationships. 

For more information about the Influenza Education among Youth in Agriculture project, please contact Monica Schroeder at mschroeder@cste.org.