Swine Flu and The Future of Israeli Pigs – Domestic and "Wild"

wild-boar-nose-israel swine flu israel photo
(Israel raises non-Kosher pigs? Yup. And it has a pretty healthy wild population of wild boars, as well).

They are calling to cull all the “swine” in Egypt, as an apparent “pandemic” of swine flu appears to be on the verge of being something out of a nightmarish version of a Stephen King novel. Following the breaking news of more than a hundred deaths from the disease in Mexico, virtually shutting down the country’s Federal District and capital, Mexico City, cases of the disease have appeared in France, the USA, the UK and two cases are reported in Israel.

A 26 year old Sharon region resident is now hospitalized in an isolation section of Laniado Hospital, after returning from a holiday in Mexico with symptoms that resemble this very strong type of influenza, which has symptoms like high fever, coughing, headaches, and other maladies.

Like all cases of flu, including the dreaded avian or bird flu, weaker individuals, including young children, the sick and the elderly, and people with chronic respiratory problems, can develop complications such as pneumonia and heart seizure, that can result in death.

The young man, Tomer Vajim, a resident of Moshav Geulim outside Netanya, went to the emergency room of Laniado after complaining of flu-like symptoms.

Due to the concern the swine flu has created, enough for a special news conference to be conducted by US government health and security officials in Washington DC on Sunday, it was decided to keep Vajim in isolation until it can be definitely determined whether or not he actually has the disease.

Despite Israel’s strict Kashrut dietary laws, swine are raised in Israel to supply a growing demand for pork, now readily available all over the country, including being sold by a large supermarket chain, Tiv Taam. In addition to these domestic porkers, there are literally thousands of wild boar , sus scrofa in Latin, that roam the fields and forests of much of Israel’s Galilee and Carmel mountain areas, as well as on the Golan Heights. While it would be easy to inspect and cull out infected domestic swine, trying to capture the wild ones would be a major undertaking. The future of domestic swine being raised in Israel could be a concern, should any of these animals be found to be carriers of the disease.

According to health ministry officials, a person may be considered a potential carrier of the swine flu virus if his or her breathing system becomes compromised without apparent reason and the patient shows symptoms such as respiratory malfunction, high fever, congestion, throat pain, coughing or shortness of breath.

The disease seems to be easily transferred by humans, and people are advised to take extra hygienic precautions such as washing their hands more frequently, and avoid being in closed places where sick people could be. Carrying a small bottle of alcohol based hand cleaning gel is also a good idea.

Israeli health officials have not yet raised the alert to Level 4, which means a major epidemic for a disease easily transferred from person to person. But increased precautions are being made, including, extra preparations at airports to be on the alert for persons entering Israel with colds or flu-like symptoms.

Many young travelers coming back from places like South America and the Far East, often return with mild to severe respiratory infections; and as a resul, it’s better to be safe than sorry, one official said.

Israelis living or traveling in locations where cases of the disease have been discovered are being urged to take extra precautions and keep themselves informed by reading updated news and health bulletins.

[image credit eilamgil]

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10 thoughts on “Swine Flu and The Future of Israeli Pigs – Domestic and "Wild"”

  1. Mustafa Arif says:

    @maurice (6): Yes, people in the UK did die from vCJD (the human form of BSE or Mad Cow Disease): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3524329.stm.

    I believe the WHO did actually recommend culling of any animals with BSE to prevent contamination of any (human or animal) food chain. See the WHO report on vCJD: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs180/en/

  2. Maurice says:

    Egyptian religious authorities, since Egypt is a predominatly Muslim country, saw this as a “window of opportunity” to eradicate the porkers from their Holy Islamic Community. Only the Copts and perhaps other non-Muslim minorities eat pork in Egypt; and with the growing presence of conservative and even radical Islam (many Al Qaeda members came from Egypt), the symbol of a pig is a bit disgusting to them.

    As for Israel, I agree there is no reason to slaughter domesting swine here, or hunt down the wild ones. I also note that killing all those cattle in the UK to get rid of mad cow disease didn’t really accomplish anything – except to cause financial ruin to a lot of farmers. By the way, did anyone in the UK actually die from mad cow disease?

  3. Jim,

    Does this mean Jews and Muslims should start eating pork, medicinally, to boost their immune system and resistance to possible future outbreaks? 😉

  4. Jim says:

    I doubt that current slaughter of piglets will do a bit of good, unless it was actually determined that they had somehow contracted the disease. However a possible issue for Muslem and Jew alike is lack of exposure to swine diseases in any form, hence having absolutely no resistance to the entire family of swine disorders. This is seeming to be showing up in the young people deaths in Mexico, with no built up immunity to flu like diseases in the past while older people are doing fairly well against this new mutation. However in the middle east there is the possibility that even the old will have no immunity to swine family flu ailments. A higher death rate could cause terrible health conditions in short order. But in today’s world, quaratine would be unlikely to work, they would therefore be wise to instead stock up on antivirals immediately. Of course they may need to get in line.

  5. Jeff says:

    Nobody’s really sure exactly of the origins of Swine Flu, but some are linking it to the conditions at the Smithfield plant in Mexico (http://www.grist.org/article/2009-04-25-swine-flu-smithfield/). That doesn’t mean that Israel’s pigs are gonna be the ones to spread the disease because it’s already spreading from humans. No need to be worried…just yet.

    There is the problem that Israel’s pork operations are horribly under-regulated and in such conditions future diseases could emerge. See my recent piece in The Atlantic on the topic: http://food.theatlantic.com/nutrition/as-israel-ignores-swine-flu-reality.php.

  6. So what do you think about Egypt’s proposed swine slaughter?

  7. The presence of pigs, wild or otherwise, is irrelevant to the current outbreak of the “swine flu”.

    The transmission of the disease has been only from one human to another, and no claims are made that swine are a disease vector or any other form of risk factor.

    So any discussion of how many pigs there are in a given area, or whether someone has decided to slaughter all of the pigs, will have no effect on the spread of the disease.

    It is called “swine flu” because it shares characteristics with influenza in pigs. It is probable that it developed by being passed back and forth among pigs, birds and humans. Mutations in the virus make it potentially dangerous, and can overcome the existing immune defenses.

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