CAIRO: Twelve were injured, including seven policemen, and 14 were arrested during clashes between riot police and pig breeders resisting a government order to cull pigs as a precaution against the spread of swine flu.
Clashes occurred with the largely Christian garbage collectors who raise pigs on the refuse and live in the teeming slums of Manishyet Nasser outside the capital.
Police were sent in after farmers resisted initial efforts by government workers to haul their pigs away.
AFP wire services reported that between 300 and 400 residents of the hilly Moqattam slum district of Cairo, where mostly Christian scrap merchants raise pigs, hurled stones and bottles at police, while anti-riot police replied by firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, most of them youths.
Egypt last week ordered the slaughter of all the country’s 300,000 pigs even though no cases of swine flu have been reported here. The World Health Organization has said the move was unnecessary because the virus is being spread through humans.
A WHO update released Sunday confirmed the spread of the flu in 17 countries that have officially reported 787 cases of the H1N1 flu.
Mexico reported 506 confirmed human cases of the flu, among them 19 deaths.
On the other hand, the US reported 160 confirmed cases, including one death.
No other deaths were reported in the remaining 15 countries.
The number of infected cases that WHO listed were: Austria (1), Canada (70), China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1), Costa Rica (1), Denmark (1), France (2), Germany (6), Ireland (1), Israel (3), Netherlands (1), New Zealand (4), Republic of Korea (1), Spain (13), Switzerland (1) and the United Kingdom (15).
The WHO release said that on May 2 Canada reported the identification of the A(H1N1) virus in a swine herd in Alberta. It added that it was highly probable that the pigs were exposed to the virus from a Canadian farm worker recently returned from Mexico, who had exhibited flu-like symptoms and had contact with the pigs. There is no indication of virus adaptation through transfer from human to pigs at this time, it said.
During the weekend rumors erupted in Egypt about the presence of the disease in the country, but Minister of Health, Hatem Al-Gabaly denied all rumors.
“We should call the disease the Mexican flu not the swine flu because it is transmitted by humans not pigs, Al-Gabaly had said during an interview on Al-Beit Beitak on Wednesday.
But despite that, the government still went ahead with its decision to cull Egypt’s pigs, even though pundits questioned it’s the existence of adequate facilities to carry out the decision on this scale.
Since last Wednesday the WHO raised its global alert level to five, one short of a global pandemic alert.