Egypt kills pigs to stop a virus that moves person-to-person

Egypt began culling its roughly 300,000 pigs on Wednesday and, Reuters reported,

“The move is not expected to block the H1N1 virus from striking, as the illness is spread by people and not present in Egyptian swine. But acting against pigs, largely viewed as unclean in conservative Muslim Egypt, could help quell a panic.”

The next day, according to the Associated Press, the World Organization for Animal Health said, "there is no evidence of infection in pigs, nor of humans acquiring infection directly from pigs," and the World Health Organization announced, "Rather than calling this swine flu … we’re going to stick with the technical scientific name H1N1 influenza A."

These organizations recognized that Egyptians aren’t getting the whole story.

The World Health Organization has raised the alert on the H1N1 flu virus to phase 5, which assistant director-general Dr. Keiji Fukuda said is reserved for situations in which the likelihood of a pandemic “is very high or inevitable.” The move reflects the need for countries to take the virus seriously, and Egyptian leaders appear to be doing just that. However, costly culls that act against current evidence are sending inaccurate messages to the public about the risks present and the ways in which they can be effectively controlled.

Egyptian pig farmers are outraged. The remaining citizens feel a bit safer now. But they will all feel terribly betrayed when the H1N1 flu infiltrates their borders in the form of an infected human.