“Kill all the pigs!” — was the fallow and forsaken outcry in Egypt.  “If the pigs are dead,” the ill-rationed reasoning flew, “then we won’t get the swing flu virus.”  Oh, how woefully wrong they were.

When the government killed all the pigs in Egypt this spring — in what public health experts said was a misguided attempt to combat swine flu — it was warned the city would be overwhelmed with trash.
The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba.

Ramadan Hediya, 35, who makes deliveries for a supermarket, lives in Madinat el Salam, a low-income community on the outskirts of Cairo. “The whole area is trash,” Mr. Hediya said. “All the pathways are full of trash. When you open up your window to breathe, you find garbage heaps on the ground.”

What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation.

The lesson we must take from Egypt’s overreaction to the Swine Flu pandemic is that we must always be rational and logical and careful in the rash decisions made in the midst of an emergency.

If we need a gentle and loud reminder of the crassness of wanton thinking made in the depths of fear, we only need turn our eye to the streets of Egypt to see the mess while turning up our noses at the stench of the failure of a vital, national, Public Health emergency response.


  1. Swing flu is from pigs, Gordon.

    Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.

    Earlier this year, China killed 13,000 birds during the last Avian Flu scare:
    H1N1 is primarily from pigs, but there are also horse and bird strains in it too, which makes it particularly hard to fight with a single vaccination and preventing it from spreading between people.

  2. Thank you, David! I think that’s the best explanation I have read of it. 🙂

  3. That’s the tough part of having a cogent Public Health policy, Gordon.
    Yes, having pigs in the streets can lead to Swine Flu.
    Do you kill every pig to remove the flu danger? Yes… but…
    Without the pigs, you then have garbage in the streets and that causes infestations and other health dilemmas that might pose an even greater risk to the populace than directly dealing with the swine flu virus by keeping all the pigs alive…
    That’s why it takes prescient leadership to figure out the best way to deal with these threats to the Public Health because often one solution just creates more ravenous problems elsewhere.

Comments are closed.