Monday, October 05, 2009

We should all be very grateful to Egypt

The Economist runs an article this week about the Egyptian campaign against Swine-Flu, that looks vastly more effective than that run in the UK, where the government has in effect given up. ( Note the Egyptian measures - eg staggering playgrounds & isolation rooms- in schools could be repeated in the UK to at least change the profile of the coming outbreak, which is the biggest threat to us right now ie a peak that we don't have the resources in hospitals to deal with like respirator beds - but it seems to be too much trouble here ).

Its true the Egyptians made a decision that seems more based on their desire to oppress their Christian minority early on of killing pigs, which has lead to its own problem is alternative food waste disposal.

But what the article misses is what the world is really afraid of. H5N1 - bird flue - has made the transition from animal to human in a number of cases in Egypt, and if it mixes inside a human with the easy to spread but currently mostly mild H1N1 swine flue then the deadly pandemic strain could be let lose on the world.

Hence the actions of the Egyptian government and people matter far more than those else where.

Prevention rarely has an obvious reward, but we may all have had reasons we will now never know about to be grateful to Egypt.


Mike said...

There is some interesting data suggesting that keeping your vitamin D level optimal will prevent colds, flu and in particular H1N1 (swine Flu). The Canadians are taking the data very seriously and starting studies to see if Vitamin D can prevent Flu
Here are links to two interesting articles:

August 2009-Vitamin D3 deficiency and its role in influenza
Sept 2009-More on Vitamin D3 and influenza

If these links don’t work you can go to and click on ‘In the news” to find the articles.

tas said...

Hey there, I'm an American student studying in Cairo right now. In the Economist article you linked to, I find it funny that it's titled "Panic or Foresight?", then the first thing it notes is Egypt slaughtering 200,000+ pigs because of swine flu. The tone of the article leads the reader to believe that the Egyptian government has achieved some prudent foresight in dealing with swine flu, but Cairo's pigs had absolutely nothing to do with swine flu. This is a well established fact that has been discussed by everyone else lately who has picked up the story, so for the Economist to not mention it is almost journalistically criminal.

Furthermore, if you want to ask if Egypt's reaction is panic or foresight, let's look at the results of the pig slaughter: Cairo is filthy. The pigs belonged to the Coptic minority, who -- until the pigs were slaughtered -- took care half of Cairo's trash. The food waste went to their pigs, and they sorted out the recyclables and sold them. Now that the pigs are gone, the Copts stopped collecting the trash -- which is everywhere. Piles of it. I've walked through the streets of Cairo recently and seen it.

So panic or foresight? If you're trying to a swine flu epidemic from breaking out in a city, one would figure city officials would do their best to make the city clean. So I'm voting for "panic" -- and very little foresight -- on this one.

Hell, Cairo can't even put soap in its public bathrooms. I took the train to Alexandria recently, and even though you had 3 guys at a table who forced you to pay a fee before entering the bathroom, none of them could be bothered to clean the bathroom or keep the soap stocked so you could properly clean up after doing your business. I didn't even bother checking the toilet stalls to see if they had toilet paper. I wish the Economist would have mentioned this when talking glowingly about how Egypt has doctors at schools.

As for the university closure, that was pretty useless. It's not like the students stayed on campus -- the majority of them traveled all across the region. All of them able to bring back swine flu from anywhere, including close by tourist destinations like Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Petra, Jordan.

Cairo is a filthy mess right now. For the Economist to even instigate that the Egyptian government has acted with foresight in this matter is laughable, and they should think seriously about the employment of the reporter who filed this story. Not that I want somebody to lose their job... Perhaps the reporter could receive some remedial journalistic training and a warning to not be so inept in the future. But as for this Economist article, it's all crap.

Man in a Shed said...

@tas - that sounds like some real ground truthing to me. You should pen a note to the editor.

I agree about the pigs ( and I think the article makes that point ).

The H5N1 + H1N1 combination is the one that has everyone spooked.

But if in reality little is being done then its very serious.