Swine Flu Panic in Egypt

Swine Flu Panic in Egypt

 The detection of seven swine flu infections among the students of the American University in Cairo (AUC) is sending panic waves across this populous Arab country.

“People run away once they know that I lecture there,” said Sarah el-Nagar, a lecturer at AUC, told IslamOnline.net.

“People are very worried.”

Seven AUC students have tested positive to the H1N1 virus, widely known as swine flu, over the past few days.

The students, who have arrived from the US a week ago, live at a dormitory in the luxury residential area of Zamalik, southwest of the capital Cairo.

Health officials have quarantined all 240 residents in the multi-storey dorm, preventing ordinary people and journalists from coming near it.

Outside the dorm, white-clad policemen stood meters away from the building and put masks on their mouths and noses, reflecting the state of high alert and fear engulfing the whole place.

Life on el-Mer’ashly Street, which houses the building, has come to an almost standstill.

Nobody dared to come near the street, which the government had barricaded and isolate from this luxury residential area.

Mustafa Abdel Satar, a 27-year-old delivery man for a major restaurant chain, no longer takes orders to el-Mer’ashly Street.

“There’s no kidding with this disease,” Abdel Satar told IOL.

“You never know how exactly you can contract the virus. You can get it by just pressing the doorbell of the apartment of infected people.”

Some of his colleagues are even turning down orders in other places in Zamalik out of fear.

The virus has now been diagnosed in more than 21,000 people around the world, and has caused the death of at least 125 people, mostly in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization.

Limitless fright

Many panicking Egyptians are buying masks to avoid infections. (Reuters)
Ismail Haggag, an AUC accounting student, says many of his colleagues have hurried up to special labs to ensure that they had not contracted the virus.

“A colleague of mine had gone to a lab to do some tests once his temperature rose,” he told IOL.

“He proved negative to the virus, but this might show how people are very worried.”

The AUC administration has sent mails to its students and staff telling them that classes have been suspended until June 15.

Egyptian health officials announced Wednesday that two people tested positive to the virus bringing the total number of confirmed infections to ten so far.

“The new cases are from Cairo and Alexandria,” said Dr. Abdel Rahman Shaheen, the Ministry of Health official spokesman.

Egypt detected its first swine flu case days ago in a 12-year-old Egyptian-American girl who had arrived for a holiday with some family members.

The authorities had stepped up surveillance measures at airports, ports and terminals to prevent the arrival of the disease using thermal monitors that detect people with high fever, an early symptom.

Shortly after the discovery of the first case in Mexico, Egypt decided to cull more than 300,000 pigs as a preventive measure against the virus.

Observers say swine flu makes Egypt face what amounts to a Hobson’s choice.

With a population of 80 million that is concentrated on less than 7 percent of the land, Egypt is a hugely dense country where the spread of infection is so easy.

With 29 bird flu patients, Egypt is the world’s worst hit country outside the Asian content.

Egyptian hospitals continue to receive people who have contracted the deadly avian flu virus every day.