A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Swine Flu in Cairo at Last: America's Fault?

Cairo, having been in all-out combat against Swine Flu for weeks now, finally has some actual cases. Al-Masry al-Youm, which has done its best to fan the flames of fear over the past month or so, announces that "Growing panic broke out yesterday among people, especially in the American University in Cairo (AUC), Zamalek district in Cairo and New Maadi in Helwan." Previously, an AUC dormitory in Zamalek (an upper-class neighborhood on Gezira Island*) had been quarantined when several AUC students were diagnosed with swine flu. The Gulf of Suez Petroleum Company also has some cases and the first case there was — a theme emerging here? — an American.

Now, given the fact that the strain originated in Mexico and hit the US before anywhere in Europe, and that the first cases in the Middle East were Israelis who'd been visiting America and US troops in Kuwait, the role of Americans as vectors in the disease isn't exactly surprising: but given the fact that bird flu has been a much greater threat in Egypt for several years, the very name "swine flu" seems to be part of the panic in Egypt, as illustrated by the great pig cull. Now it would seem that Americans are to blame. (Remember, there were calls to quarantine the Obama entourage!)

*Yes, I know "Gezira Island" is redundant.

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