Egypt, hard hit by the highly pathogenic bird flu virus, is considering culling hundreds of thousands of pigs as a precautionary measure as swine flu nears the borders of the most populous Arab country. The move is not expected to block the H1N1 virus from striking, as the illness is spread by people and not present in Egyptian swine. But acting against pigs, largely viewed as unclean in conservative Muslim Egypt, could help quell a panic.
Pigs are mainly raised by Egypt’s Christian minority. Experts fear any flu pandemic could spread quickly in Egypt and have a devastating impact in a country where most of the roughly 80 million people live in the densely packed Nile Valley, many concentrated in crowded slums in and around Cairo.
“The question now is should we kill them or relocate them, and the prevailing idea now is to kill the existing (pigs) and of course compensate their owners,” cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said on Wednesday. He put the number of pigs that could be culled at between 300,000 and 400,000, and said a decision was expected in days.
“If you see the conditions of the swine farms in Egypt, they are not healthy at all. They are hazards in themselves, even without the swine flu. That’s why people are really getting afraid,” he told Reuters. Swine flu has killed up to 159 people in Mexico and cases have been reported in the United States and Europe as well as in neighbouring Israel. Egypt has no reported cases, but has stepped up monitoring at airports.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS