Egypt starts slaughtering all pigs over swine flu

Egypt starts slaughtering all pigs over swine flu Cairo - Egypt began slaughtering thousands of pigs on Wednesday in a precaution against swine flu, although no cases have yet been reported in the country.

"It has been decided to slaughter all pigs in the country immediately," Minister of Health Hatem al-Gabali said Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian parliament voted to slaughter the country's entire pig livestock of around 250,000 animals in a precautionary measure.

Al-Gabali was quoted by the official Middle East News Agency as saying that all pigs will be examined to make sure they did not carry the virus before they are killed.

An awareness campaign will be launched through the local media and a committee will be established to follow up the virus.

The minister said that production of face masks will be increased to 100 million compared to the 2007 rate of 30 million.

"We have communicated with the Ministry of Tourism since last Saturday to give us a daily report on and watch closely all tourists, especially those coming from the countries that reported cases of the virus," said al-Gabali, adding that they also increased the number of doctors stationed at the borders.

The Government's decision came a few hours after the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, said in a symposium on the health scare on Wednesday that swine flu is "more serious than the hydrogen bomb."

The Brotherhood - which although banned is Egypt's largest opposition bloc in parliament - voted for the cull, and said that the swine flu outbreak demonstrated the wisdom of the Islamic ban on pork.

"It is God's grace in his Islamic Sharia to permit all that is good for us and to ban what is bad. We could understand the wisdom of the ban, or we could not understand it. But eventually time proves the truth of God's words to us," Sheikh al-Sayed Askar said at a Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored symposium on the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is safe to eat pig meat.

"Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs," the organisation said on its website.

Israel is the sole country in the region hit by the virus. It reported two cases of the disease on Wednesday. Both were tourists who had recently returned from Mexico.

Representatives of the World Health Organisation in Egypt on have stressed that the country was well-equipped to confront the virus because of its experience with the related avian flu virus.

Islam, the religion of 90 per cent of Egypt's 80 million citizens, forbids eating the flesh of pigs. In Cairo, poor Christian garbage-collectors raise pigs on food waste.

Speaking at the forum, Mohammed Seif, a professor at the University of Beni Suef, some 150 kilometres south of Cairo, said he feared they could spread the virus.

"Garbage-collectors could multiply the spread of the virus because they raise pigs and enter most Egyptian homes," he said.

The WHO confirmed 114 cases of swine flu around the world with 13 cases in Canada, 26 in Mexico, including seven deaths and 64 in the US which include one death. (dpa)