Flu Fears Lands Afghanistan's Only Pig In Quarantine

Photo: The pig in question, from a photo taken in 2002 (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)

Regrettably, the global swine flu panic has not spared Afghanistan's only known pig. A resident of Kabul Zoo, the little porker has been locked up in a room since Sunday because visitors have voiced concerns about a possible swine flu infection risk. This unfortunate turn of events could be the freshest example of misinformation and overreaction to the specter of a pandemic. The Kabul Zoo's pig was actually a gift from China in 2002, and is the surviving member of the original pair of pigs. The other pig and their offspring were killed and eaten by a bear. So far, "Pig" (as the animal is called) has not shown any outward symptoms.

Pork and pig products are forbidden in Afghanistan due to religious beliefs. Despite the fact that Afghanistan has no wild pigs, nor pig farms, nor any direct flights from Mexico City to Kabul, zoo officials have sequestered the pig in its winter house due to public worry.

The zoo, which houses two lions, local leopards, 42 species of birds and 36 types of fish, attracts up to 10,000 visitors on weekends.

"For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," said zoo director Aziz Gul Saqib. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

"We understand that [the risk of infection is nil], but most people don't have enough knowledge," Saqib said. "When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill."

According to the World Health Organization, 1,490 people worldwide have been infected, and a handful killed by this hybrid flu strain. The WHO has said that it will no longer use the term 'swine flu', preferring instead the official name influenza A (H1N1), in order to dispel any myths that it can be caught from eating pork products or coming into contact with pigs.

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