Swine Flu, social networks and media spreading misinformation

Two recent articles from Al-Jazeera show the misinformation that is widespread about Swine Flu.

The first was an article lamenting how some Arab countries has imported pork meat, including Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE. The article implies a connection between consuming pork, and catching swine flu. An avalanche of equally uninformed comments from visitors as response to the article. Many of the comments are focusing on the Islamic ban on consuming pork.

The other article is about Egypt's parliament considering discontinuing pig farms, with the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Church. At issue are the jobs affected by that, including the garbage collectors and recyclers providing feed for the pigs.

Fact of the matter is: eating pork does not cause swine flu, as detailed on the CDC's web site: key facts on Swine Flu, and CBC Canada Swine Flu FAQ.

Even xkcd has lampooned the misinformation that is spread by users of social networks such as Twitter.

Another funny thing is how Israel's Ultra-Orthodox health minister renaming the un-Kosher swine flu to Mexican flu.



Egypt slaughters pigs

Egypt has starting the slaughter of pigs to prevent Swine flu.

I wonder if this has any effect. In the case of bird flu a few years ago, the culling of ducks and chicken may have been justified, since Egypt is on the migratory path for large amounts of water fowl and other birds migrating fro Eurasia to Africa twice a year.

Pigs do not migrate, and unless new members are imported from abroad to join current herds, it is unlikely that local herds will be a vector for swine flu.

So far, the disease has been transmitted from human to human, and that is the most important infection vector to focus on. Travelers coming to the country, including tourists, and businessmen coming from trips abroad, are the biggest threat to introducing the flu from abroad.

Lebanon bans importing of live pigs

Al-Jazeera reports what is mentioned in the BBC above, with Egypt slaughtering pigs. It also quotes members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Parliament urging the slaughter of pigs and that "swine flu is more dangerous than the hydrogen bomb". Again, misinformation about how the disease is spread lead to these decisions.

In the same article, a more Swine flu relevant approach by Lebanon where there is a ban on the import of live pigs, but permitting canned and processed meat which has been heat treated.

Pig destruction in Egypt continues ...

The destruction of pigs in Egypt continues.

The United Nations has said that the cull is a real mistake since the new strain -- a mix of avian, swine and human viruses -- has not been found in pigs.

Confusingly, Egyptian authorities stressed that the meat from the pigs is safe!

The news made it to Slashdot,

The news made it to Slashdot, and Bruce Perens posted there a disappointing respone from someone as intelligent as him. He ought to know better.

Here is my reply to him.

Egypt's pig cull continues

The pig cull continues in Egypt.

Government officials says that this is now more to regular the pig industry and prevent feeding them on garbage.

The government also promised compensation for those affected by the cull.

Clashes between the government and pig farmers

According to the BBC and CBC, clashes have erupted between pig farmers and police over the cull of swine herds in Cairo.

The BBC article mentions that although the authorities have stated that swine flu was the original motive, now it is a general public health measure. They say they will "bring order" to the pig farming industry so that pigs are not raised on garbage, but in proper farms.

Compensation amounts

According to Al Jazeera, compensation for pig owners will be set as $17 for a male, and $44.4 for a female.

The total number of pigs in Egypt is estimated to be between 300,000 and 400,000.

Cruel, but not prejudiced

Youtube has a Reuters video report saying that each pig will provide a compensation of US $180 to their owners.

The pigs shown in the footage appear to be feral rather than domesticated, being very hairy.

Al Masry Al Youm, an Egyptian newspaper, has video footage showing that each owner is compensated on the spot with cash for each pig taken. However, the conditions of transporting the pigs are far from humane. Then chemicals are used to to kill the pigs, then they are buried in quick lime.

The BBC describes the cull as cruel, but says that "many people have wrongly ascribed they cruelty to Islamic prejudice against pigs". It goes on to quote Muslim scholars who object to the methods of the cull as being too cruel.

What's the next flu?

There was bird flu and many people were worried about chicken. Now it's swine flu and people stop eating pork. So when is fish flu coming? Why not become vegetarians???