Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meet Pig - Responsible for Fear and Terror in Afghanistan

Photo: The pig in question, from a photo taken in 2002 (Reuters/Radu Sigheti).

Afghanistan has only one pig in the entire country. The little porker is a resident of Kabul Zoo and has been locked up in his winter residence since Sunday. The problem being that visitors to the zoo have voiced concerns about a possible swine flu infection risk.

Unfortunately, the spectre of death and destruction as it relates to the swine flu has reared its ugly head in countries where misinformation and overreaction are the order of the day. Egypt is planning to slaughter over 300,000 pigs to prevent the disease from entering the country. However, there is absolutely no sign that any of their pigs are infected and there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Egypt.

The loveable little porcine causing such widespread fear throughout the country was a gift from China in 2002. Kabul Zoo originally received two pigs; but, a bear killed and ate the other adult and all of the offspring. “Pig”, as he was creatively named, is the sole survivor and has never shown any signs of having contracted the H1N1 virus.

Pork and pig products are forbidden in Afghanistan due to religious beliefs so it’s not surprising that they only have one pig in the entire country. In addition, they have absolutely no wild pigs, no pig farms or even any direct flights from Mexico City to Kabul; but, zoo officials still felt the need to quarantine Pig.

The zoo, which houses two lions, local leopards, 42 species of birds and 36 types of fish, attracts up to 10,000 visitors on weekends.

"For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," said zoo director Aziz Gul Saqib. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

"We understand that [the risk of infection is nil]; but, most people don't have enough knowledge,” Saqib said. “When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) is no longer using the term “swine flu”. Instead, they are referring to it by its official name “influenza A (H1N1)” in an effort to dispel any misinformation that it can be caught from eating pork products or coming into contact with swine.

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