Thursday, May 10, 2007

Egyptian Authorities Battle Ingrained Conspiracy Theories In Their Fight To Stop The Spread Of Bird Flu

A remarkable story from Bloomberg about why Egypt is facing such a monumental challenge in battling bird flu. Some 14 people have died from bird flu in Egypt, with more than 34 becoming infected. Egypt rates as one of the worst countries in the world for repeated outbreaks of the virus, and the government has culled more than 15 million chickens. The government recently stated it needed more than $US450 million to fight bird flu.

But not only are authorities trying to change entrenched cultural paradigms that see chickens running loose inside houses, and climbing onto children's beds, they also have to go up against widespread conspiracy theories that see many men believing that government bred chickens are tainted with poisons that will send them sterile, or even kill them :

"We are dealing with a society where chickens are part of the family,'' said Ibrahim el-Kerdani, spokesman for the World Health Organization's regional office in Cairo.

As many as 5 million Egyptian households raise poultry in their backyards, both as a source of nutrition and income. The government is battling a culture that doubts the quality of poultry that isn't raised, fed and slaughtered at home according to Islamic rites.

"The government wants men to be impotent to control over- population,'' said Abdel Azim. "It invented the bird flu to force us to eat the hormone-pumped chickens that make us sterile.''

Mohamed Attiya, a 56-year-old handyman, said he would divorce his wife if she cooked farmed or frozen chicken.

"In this country, you never know the truth, never,'' he said. "They would poison us if they can. Trust me.''

Abdel Azim's birds roam around his home, mingling with his wife, four children, two sisters and brother. He said his 3-year-old son loves the chickens as much as him and treats them as pets.

"The chickens wake my son in the morning,'' said Abdel Azim, who teaches classical Arabic at a local school. "If he didn't find them on his bed in the morning, he would cry for an hour.''

Go Here To Read The Full Story

In Other Bird Flu Related News :

Panic Grips Town In West Bengal As 2000 Birds Die

Fresh Outbreak Fears In Japan As Dead Birds Test Positive For Virus

Bird Flu Virus Strikes Vietnam, Again

US Centre For Disease Control Announces Face Masks Are Unlikely To Stop You Catching The Bird Flu Virus During A Pandemic

Indonesia : 29 Year Old Woman Dies From H5N1 - 75th Officially Declared Victim

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