Close Monitoring for Ebola Virus in the Philippines

PHILIPPINES - Authorities have increased the level of monitoring for Ebola Reston virus following the infection of four people with the virus.
calendar icon 6 February 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

Veterinary authorities in Misamis Oriental have told Sun Star of the Philippines that they are closely monitoring signs of Ebola Reston in the province, as four people have been reported to have contracted the rare virus through pig-to-human transmission.

Dr Alfonso Ramosa, the province's veterinary chief, said they are being extra cautious about Ebola Reston – first discovered among monkeys in Luzon in 1989 – because "we could not specifically tell the symptoms and effect of the Ebola virus on hogs."

He said they are closely coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture in monitoring the disease for immediate containment.

The province's livestock industry is still reeling from last year's hog cholera outbreak, which killed over 2,000 pigs. Hundreds of pigs also died in Cagayan de Oro.

The outbreak led to a massive vaccination program all over Region 10, in which at least 34,000 pigs in Misamis Oriental alone were vaccinated.

Dr Ramosa said Ebola Reston may not be fatal to humans unlike cholera, but immediate prevention was still imperative as the virus strain may evolve into lethal subtypes.

Three of the Ebola virus's five sub-types are associated with deadly haemorrhagic fever in humans; two other subtypes, including the Reston, are not, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Health Secretary, Francisco Duque III, said on 30 January there are now five known cases of possible pig-to-human transmission of the virus after a backyard hog raiser from a northern Manila suburb became the first confirmed case this month.

An initial report said that none of the five men wore protective clothing and all had direct contact with sick pigs, according to Mr Duque.

Ebola Reston has not been known to cause serious illness among humans. At least 25 people in the Philippines have been infected with the virus by monkeys, but only one victim exhibited mild flu-like symptoms.

WHO's Dr Julie Hall said the five cases in the Philippines "increase the likelihood” of pig-to-human transmission of the virus, but investigators were not yet certain. She said all five people are now virus-free.

"They are not infectious, they therefore do not need to be quarantined," she told Sun Star.

While the virus appears to pose low risks to humans, Dr Hall said the government must implement strict measures such as quick reporting of sick or dying pigs and preventing the sale of illegally slaughtered meat to keep the virus from spreading among the swine population.

The government has already invited experts from WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Organization for Animal Health early this month to conduct a study on the health risks of the virus, first found in pigs in the country in October.

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.

Health officials were trying to locate anyone who may have had contact with the five men, concludes the Sun Star report.

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