Virus in Filipino Pigs May Pose Human Risk

PHILIPPINES - Animal and health experts have said they were conducting an investigation in the Philippines to determine whether the Ebola Reston virus recently discovered in pigs poses a threat to human health.
calendar icon 7 January 2009
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International Herald Tribune reports that about a dozen experts from the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) were invited to Manila to help the government investigate the virus, first identified in October in the northern Philippines.

The discovery not only marked the first time the virus has been found outside of monkeys, but also the first time it has been found in swine, a food-producing animal.

Those factors make the mission "particularly important," said a joint statement by the investigating organizations.

"We hope to identify the risks certainly for animal health and human health, if there are any," said Dr Juan Lubroth of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and head of the Manila mission.

Ebola's three other subtypes — the Zaire, Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire strains — can cause deadly haemorrhagic fever in humans, according to WHO.

The 10-day research mission, which started on 6 January, will focus on the source of the virus, how it is transmitted, its virulence, its natural habitat, and the best way to identify it, the experts told International Herald Tribune.

The Ebola Reston virus was discovered in October while tests were being conducted on samples from pigs that had died of another swine disease at two farms in the northern Philippines.

Philippine Health Secretary, Francisco Duque III, said the two farms in northern Bulacan and Pangasinan provinces, which have nearly 10,000 pigs, are under quarantine.

Tests in late December on pig samples from the farms were negative for the virus, and no pigs have died of the disease or shown any signs of illness, he said. Bureau of Animal Industry Director Davinio Catbagan said the foreign team would verify the results with the slaughter of about 140 pigs.

"If we do not see the virus on these tissue samples, we can decide to lift the quarantine, and later on (proceed) to a wider surveillance," Mr Duque said, according to International Herald Tribune.

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