Egypt Pig Cull Suggests Ethical Risks of DNA-based Public Policy

The Egyptian government has ordered a 100% blanket cull of its entire pig stock in response to the outbreak of “swine flu” in Mexico and the US. The problem is, the new strain of the virus, technically influenza A H1N1, has not been found in pigs. The H1N1 strain is a flu virus that affects the human population and is spread by person to person contact. It contains genetic material showing it is a hybrid flu containing genetic segments linking it to avian-borne, swine-borne and human-borne flu viruses.

It is believed the initial infection may have some link to a particular pig farm in rural Oaxaca state, in southern Mexico. But as yet, this has not been confirmed, nor has it been confirmed that any livestock were responsible for transmission of the virus to the first affected individual. Egypt’s culling of pigs has been declared unnecessary by the World Health Organization, and the nature of Egypt’s apparent severe overreaction to the theoretical threat of a flu pandemic is made more clear by the fact that no one in Egypt has contracted the H1N1 flu infection.

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