06/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Flu Fear: Afghanistan Quarantines Its Only Pig

In the latest ineffective effort to protect people from swine flu, Afghanistan has quarantined its one and only pig, Reuters reports. The pig -- which had spent it days grazing beside deer and goats in a Kabul zoo -- is now locked away in a room by itself.

The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.

The move seems a bit unnecessary given that a) there are no pig farms in Afghanistan, b) there is not a single case of so-called swine flu in Afghanistan and c) there are no direct flights between Mexico and Kabul, Reuters reports.

"We understand that, but most people don't have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill," [Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo,] said.

Last week, the AP reported that Egypt -- which also does not have a single case of swine flu -- began slaughtering all 300,000 of its pigs out of fear of an outbreak.

The measure was a stark expression of the panic the deadly outbreak is spreading around the world, especially in poor countries with weak public health systems. Egypt responded similarly a few years ago to an outbreak of bird flu, which is endemic to the country and has killed two dozen people.

At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, scores of angry farmers blocked the street to prevent Health Ministry workers in trucks and bulldozers from coming in to slaughter the animals. Some pelted the vehicles with rocks and shattered their windshields and the workers left without killing any pigs.

"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" said Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in another part of Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"

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