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Is it a policy crisis or it is a health crisis? The Egyptian context - Analysis of the Egyptian health policy for the H1N1 flu pandemic control

Sameh Seef
Anders Jeppsson


A new influenza virus that was first detected in people in April 2009, was initially referred to colloquially as "swine flu", since it contained genes from swine, avian and human influenza viruses. It can, however, not be transmitted by eating pork or dealing with pigs. In Egypt, several hundred thousand pigs were killed in May, in spite of advice from global health authorities that such an action was unnecessary. Pigs are raised and consumed mainly by the Christian minority, which constitute some 10 % of the population. Health Ministry estimated there were between 300,000- 350,000 pigs in Egypt. This paper will analyze the Egyptian health policy for controlling the pandemic H1N1 flu, exploring its context, content, process, and actors. The analysis is based on the Leichter Context, which refers to systemic factors-political, economic and social, both national and international-that may have an effect on health policy, and is based on data collected from literature review and policy documents. The International health officials said the swine flu virus that has caused worldwide fear is not transmitted by pigs, and that pig slaughters do nothing to stop its spread. The WHO stopped using the term "swine flu" to avoid confusion. In Egypt, even the editor of a pro-government newspaper criticized the order to slaughter: "Killing (pigs) is not a solution, otherwise, we should kill the people, because the virus spreads through them," wrote Abdullah Kamal of the daily Rose El-Youssef. The World Health organization also criticized the decision. The extinction of the Egyptian pigs is an example of how a health issue can be used to persecute a minority within a country. Although the current influenza has nothing whatsoever to do with pigs, the previous name of the epidemic was used as an argument to violate the rights of the Christian minority in Egypt.

Pan African Medical Journal 2013; 14:59

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eISSN: 1937-8688