Local News

Farmers concerned H1N1 will stop migrant workers

Posted May 1, 2009 9:58 p.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2009 11:01 p.m. EDT

— Farmers fear the H1N1 virus may cause the government to close the borders and stop the thousands of documented Mexican workers who cross the border to work in the fields.

For more than a decade, Armando Correa has traveled from Mexico to Wake County to work in the fields. In six months, he said he can earn enough money to last him all year back home.

“I sustain my family from this job,” Correa said.

Correa works on Jackie Thompson’s farm off of Louisburg Road in Wake Forest.

“They come over here and help us get our crops in or we fail,” Thompson said.

Thompson said all of his workers come to the United States legally with visas. He pays extra to make sure they are legal.

Last year 64,000 documented Mexican workers cross the border last year for jobs in fields through the United States.

Thompson worries the borders may be shut down after the H1N1 virus scare. The H1N1 strain is suspected in more than 165 deaths in Mexico – only a dozen have been confirmed – and about 2,500 others there may be suffering symptoms.

“We are beginning to be concerned,” Thompson said.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed more than 140 cases of the H1N1 virus in at least 19 states as of Friday. Nine of those people have been hospitalized. A 23-month-old boy in Houston is the only person in the U.S. to die from the disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Engel, the state health director, said it is too soon to tell if things will get worse here before they better.

“This is an emerging epidemic and we don’t know yet where on the curve we are,” Engel said.