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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Update: Eqypts Pig Kill

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

[1] Past experience as clarification of the big cull
[2] Swine flu on the background of avian flu

[1] Past experience and clarifications of the big cull
Date: Thu 30 Apr 2009
Source: AFP and Reuters via abc.net.au (edited]

Egypt's pig cull a 'general health measure'
At least one clash between pig farmers and authorities has been
reported in Egypt. Egypt says its cull of 250 000 pigs was a general
health measure rather than a precaution against swine flu, after the
United Nations said there was no evidence the animals were spreading
the disease.

"We're at stage 5, the matter is now human, not animal," health
ministry spokesman Abdelrahman Shahine said after the World Health
Organisation (WHO) ratcheted up its alarm level over the flu, now
detected in 12 countries.

"The authorities took advantage of the situation to resolve the
question of disorderly pig rearing in Egypt," he said.

No cases of swine flu have been detected in Egypt. Egypt's
agriculture ministry says there are 250 000 pigs in the country,
belonging to and eaten by members of the Coptic Christian minority.
The pigs live in Cairo slums inhabited mostly by Christian rubbish

The agriculture ministry's head of infectious diseases, Saber Abdel
Aziz Galal, said the cull was "a general health measure. It is good
to restructure this kind of breeding in good farms, not on rubbish.
Now they live with dogs, cats, rats, poultry and humans, all in the
same area with rubbish. We will build new farms in special areas,
like in Europe. Within 2 years the pigs will return, but we need 1st
to build new farms."

Mr Galal could not say on Thursday [30 Apr 2009] how many pigs were
expected to die. Health minister Amin Abaza said that the mass
slaughter would begin in earnest on Saturday [2 May 2009]. "It will
take 3 weeks to a month. They'll kill them in specialised
slaughterhouses after they've been checked for swine flu," state news
agency MENA quoted Mr Abaza as saying.

At least one clash was reported north of Cairo on Wednesday [29 Apr
2009] after the health ministry announced the cull, with farmers
throwing stones at veterinary services who had come to take their
pigs away. The ministry said it would now also start collecting
health data from 34 000 rubbish collectors, "particularly those
working in areas near pig-breeding farms," MENA reported. The WHO on
Wednesday ruled out pigs as a source of flu transmission.

"We don't see any evidence that anyone is getting infected from
pigs," said WHO acting assistant director General Keiji Fukuda. "This
appears to be a virus which is moving from person to person."

[Egyptian] State media have said that compensation for pig owners
could reach 1000 Egyptian pounds (USD 178), but Mr Galal said they
would simply get their animal back as meat. "We will kill them and
give the meat to the owners," he said. "I think the government will
talk to the owners and reach a suitable compensation with them."

Mr Abaza said the authorities were trying to convince pig rearers of
the "danger" of the activity as it is practised in Egypt and for them
to come forward voluntarily with their pigs.

"It's not a simple matter. All these pigs won't be killed like you're
pushing a remote-control button," he was quoted as saying by the
state-owned Al-Ahram daily [see also item 2 below]. Mr Amin said that
a farmer at an undisclosed location had been nabbed with 300 pigs as
he tried to smuggle them to freedom on Wednesday. Armed police are
stationed outside some of Cairo's pig sties to prevent such attempts.

Communicated by:

[2] Swine flu on the background of avian flu
Date: Fri 01 May 2009
Source: Al Ahram Weekly On-line, Issue Number 945, 30 Apr - 6 May 2009 [edited]

Back to square one: on the potential threat posed by swine flu
As more cases of avian flu emerge, the government is recalibrating
measures aimed at containing the virus, stepping up the precautionary
measures 1st introduced when the disease appeared in Egypt in
February 2006. The People's Assembly on Tue [28 Apr 2009] finally
passed a law regulating the transport and selling of fowl after it
remained on the back burner for 2 years. Slaughtering birds is now
only permitted in licensed slaughter houses. Violating the new
regulations carries a fine of between LE 1000 and LE 10 000 [USD 178
to 1780], as well as a possible jail term of 6 months.

The situation has grown more urgent with the outbreak of swine flu in
Mexico, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns could
threaten a global pandemic. In a press conference at the Ministry of
Health on Sunday [26 Apr 2009] night health officials confirmed that
pigs formed the most likely route for any viral mutation capable of
human to human transmission.

"What really concerns us most are people who come into contact with
pigs," said one official.

Israel has already reported 2 cases of people infected with swine
flu, leading to fears the disease could cross Egypt's Eastern border.

The People's Assembly (PA) Health Committee had discussed the
possibility of culling pigs in Egypt. A decision was taken yesterday
[Wed 29 Apr 2009] to cull the 350 000 pigs upon President Hosni
Mubarak's meeting with the concerned ministers.

"We have been calling for the removal of pigpens from populated areas
since 2006," says Hamdi El-Sayed, head of the PA's Health Committee.
"Workers who are in contact with pigs must be monitored continuously,
and the livestock thoroughly assessed."

Coptic members of parliament (MPs) supported calls for a general
cull. MP Ibtesam Habib says that "we are all calling for the
elimination of all pigs in the country. What we should be concerned
about is the fate of those working with pigs," she added. "They must
be financially compensated."

Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab
responded to MPs' arguments by which several committees discussed the
issue and a final decision was reached.

The threat in Egypt is compounded by the fact that many pig farms
neighbour poultry units. While the H5N1 virus continues to infect a
growing number of people, the looming fear is that the virus may
mutate within pigs to form a deadly strain easily transmitted between

"Egypt has not yet reported any cases of H1N1 among its pig
population," says Abdel-Rahman Shahin, official spokesman at the
Ministry of Health. "The government is treating the matter
objectively, neither overestimating nor underestimating the threat."

Health workers are being trained to diagnose swine flu symptoms.
Physicians are currently collecting blood samples from people in
direct and indirect contact with pigs. Arrivals from Mexico at
Egyptian ports and airports are being screened for flu-like symptoms.

"Passengers coming from countries that have reported cases of swine
flu and who test negative for the virus will be monitored by the
Health Ministry. Others will be banned from entering the country,"
says Shahin. The official spokesman adds that cards will be issued so
health employees can continue monitoring visitors throughout their
stay in Egypt.

The 1st human case of bird flu in Egypt was reported on 16 Feb 2006.
Since then 68 cases have been recorded, 18 of them in the last 4
months. A total of 26 patients have died. No vaccine offers specific
protection against swine flu and it is unclear the extent to which
current human flu vaccines help.

Hamed Samaha, head of the General Authority for Veterinary Services
(GAVS), has urged the government to consider moving pig farms away
from populated areas. GAVS is now engaged in doing spot checks among
Egypt's pig population, taking daily blood samples. The potential
problem, he says, is compounded by the fact that a vaccine has yet to
be produced offering protection from the newly discovered H1N1 strain
of swine flu. Samaha estimates that should an outbreak occur, it will
infect up to a quarter of those who are in contact with pigs.

Public information campaigns about the dangers of bird flu have been
ineffective, says Samaha, and the threat posed by pig farms operating
in densely populated areas is not properly appreciated. He criticises
poultry and pig farmers for failing to apply bio-security measures or
vaccinate their animals.

"It is essential that district chiefs inspect poultry retail shops to
check that retailers are not selling live birds." Samaha has also
called for a complete ban on the transport of live poultry and the
stringent application of the decree prohibiting the slaughtering of
birds outside slaughter houses. "The government must immediately
close down farms where farmers have failed to report infections. To
rid Egypt of H5N1 all regulatory procedures must be applied strictly.
Otherwise the virus will continue here forever."

A stroll through Cairo's streets provides abundant evidence that
shops selling live birds continue to operate, despite a recent decree
ordering their closure.

"Everything is calm. We have received no notification of any closure
orders. Nor are we being inspected as happened 3 years ago," says
Sayed Othman, owner of a poultry shop.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation has announced that a
draft law, initially planned to be passed in May 2007, preventing the
trade and transport of live poultry between governorates, will soon
be ready to present to the People's Assembly.

Mona Mehrez, head of the Central Laboratory for Poultry Monitoring at
the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, also says that the
satellite unit created 2 years ago to map the site of poultry farms
as well as poultry being reared domestically will finally begin its

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif last week gave the go ahead for GAVS to
import 900 000 additional doses of bird flu vaccines. A fund to
compensate poultry farmers for any losses they incur is also to be
set up.

"The government will collect 10 piastres [1.78 US cent] from poultry
farmers for each bird on their farm and a one percent fee on imported
vaccines, poultry medicines and fodder, in order to finance the fund.
So far this year more than 50 000 mature fowl and 60 000 chicks have
been culled after being found to carry the deadly strain of bird
flu," says Mehrez.

The capacity of existing slaughter houses is equal to just half of
the estimated 850 million birds killed each year, yet despite a LE
500 million [almost 89 million USD] donation from Kuwait to upgrade
slaughter houses and create new, automated abattoirs, Samaha says
nothing has been done to date. He blames the municipalities and
Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs for laxity in dealing
with the issue. "It is very difficult to change people's behaviour in
a few years. It is a process that takes time. The problem is that we
may not have much time," he warns.

Samaha blames the increasing number of infections among humans on the
inefficiency of the imported vaccine. "There is an urgent need to
develop a vaccine specifically tailored to local fowl," he says.

The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs has issued a map
showing the location of pig farms. There are 9 pens within Greater
Cairo, 4 in the governorate of Cairo, at Ezbet Al-Nakhl, Mansheyat
Nasser, Batn Al-Baqara and Al-Qatameya, one in the governorate of
Giza, at Al-Moatamadeya, one in the Sixth of October, at Al-Baragil,
and 3 in Helwan. In a recent press statement, the Ministry of State
for Environmental Affairs said all pig farms located in Greater Cairo
will be removed to 15 May city. No timetable for the move was
announced. Egypt's pig population is estimated at 350 000.

[Byline: Reem Leilla]

Communicated by:

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