... So that You may be kept informed

MID: Egypt orders immediate slaughter of all pigs

By Samer al-Atrush
30 Apr 2009 2:41 AM
EDS: Changes ke from Flu Egypt

CAIRO, April 29 AFP - Egypt on Wednesday ordered the immediate cull of all pigs in the country as a precaution against swine flu, Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali said, in the first such move in the world.

"It has been ordered to immediately begin the slaughter of all herds of pigs in Egypt," Gabali told reporters after meeting President Hosni Mubarak.

He said slaughterhouses would begin the cull on Wednesday at the fastest rate possible, as pig owners expressed outrage.

Gabali said Egypt -- one of the countries most affected by the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu and where 26 people have died as a result of that disease -- was taking the threat of swine flu "very seriously."

Further precautionary measures such as launching an awareness campaign and increasing production of protective masks and the antiviral drug Tamiflu would also be taken, he said.

Egypt's agriculture ministry says there are 250,000 pigs in the country, belonging to and eaten by members of the Coptic Christian minority.

Pig rearers in Cairo's slums -- mostly Christian rubbish collectors -- were outraged by the country's reaction to swine flu.

"Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases," said Adel Ishak, a rubbish collector from Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo.

"How will they replace the capital if these pigs are killed?" the father of 10 told AFP.

Ayman Saad, who raises pigs in Batn al-Baqqar, said the authorities had told him he would receive compensation of about 600 Egyptian pounds ($A148) per animal.

"How long will the compensation feed us for? A year? Is the government going to pay for our children's education?" Ishak complained.

There was no official announcement as to if and how compensation would be delivered.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said the virus had not been found in animals so far.

Nonetheless, Egypt's lower house of parliament on Tuesday called for the pigs to be slaughtered instead of relocated outside residential areas, as had first been proposed.

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that Egypt's experience in dealing with avian flu has prepared it to handle the swine flu threat.

"Because you have avian flu, your surveillance system is much more alert and doctors seeing patients will keep it in mind," Hussein Gezairy, WHO's regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, told reporters.

WHO's acting assistant director General Keiji Fukuda said on Wednesday that there was no evidence that pigs were spreading the flu to humans.

"We don't see any evidence that anyone is getting infected from pigs," Fukuda said in a telephone news conference from Geneva. "This appears to be a virus which is moving from person to person," he added.

Hassan el-Bushra, WHO's regional advisor for emerging diseases, said there is a regional stockpile in Dubai of three million anti-viral drug capsules to treat 300,000 cases of swine flu, in addition to each country's own stocks.