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Egyptian Health Policy for the H1N1 Flu Pandemic Control

18 April 2013

The political and social ramifications of the slaughter of pigs in Egypt following the outbreak of H1N1 influenza were extreme, producing the slaughter of thousands of pigs according to the findings of a new review.

In a paper published in The Pan African Medical Journal, Sameh Seef and Anders Jeppsson of Sweden's Lund University explain that a new influenza virus first detected in people in April 2009 was initially referred to colloquially as 'swine flu', since it contained genes from porcine, avian and human influenza viruses. It can, however, not be transmitted by eating pork or dealing with pigs.

In Egypt, several hundred thousand pigs were killed in May of that year, in spite of advice from global health authorities that such an action was unnecessary. Pigs are raised and consumed mainly by the Christian minority, which constitute some 10 per cent of the population. The Health Ministry estimated there were between 300,000 and 350,000 pigs in Egypt.

Their paper analyses Egypt's health policy for controlling the pandemic H1N1 flu, exploring its context, content, process and actors. The analysis is based on the Leichter Context, which refers to systemic factors-political, economic and social, both national and international-that may have an effect on health policy, and is based on data collected from literature review and policy documents.

International health officials said the swine flu virus that has caused worldwide fear is not transmitted by pigs, and that pig slaughter does nothing to stop its spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stopped using the term 'swine flu' to avoid confusion.

According to Seef and Jeppsson, even the editor of a pro-government newspaper in Egypt criticised the order to slaughter: "Killing (pigs) is not a solution, otherwise, we should kill the people, because the virus spreads through them," wrote Abdullah Kamal of the daily, Rose El-Youssef. WHO also criticised the decision.

The extinction of the Egyptian pigs is an example of how a health issue can be used to persecute a minority within a country. Although the current influenza has nothing whatsoever to do with pigs, the previous name of the epidemic was used as an argument to violate the rights of the Christian minority in Egypt, conclude Seef and Jeppsson.


Seef S. and A. Jeppsson. 2013. Is it a policy crisis or it is a health crisis? The Egyptian context - Analysis of the Egyptian health policy for the H1N1 flu pandemic control. The Pan African Medical Journal. 14:59. doi:10.11604/pamj.2013.14.59.1631

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

Find out more about the H1N1 influenza by clicking here.

April 2013

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