January 23, 2009

Filipino Man Tested Positive For Ebola

On Friday, the government said that at least one person has tested positive for the Ebola-Reston virus in the Philippines, where the disease has broken out in pigs at two farms north of the capital.

Francisco Duque, Health Secretary, told a news conference that there was little immediate health risk, but experts said the virus' jump to humans was a concern.

"This presents a negligible risk to human health," Duque said.

A 10-day field test at the two farms was ended over the weekend by experts from the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization, after Ebola-Reston was found there last year.

This was the first time the virus was found outside monkeys and inside pigs.  Previously, the virus jumped from monkeys to humans, but it is the first case to jump  to hogs.

At least 50 workers in the two farms were exposed to Ebola-Reston, but only one person tested positive, according to a Reuters report.  He also said that this person had not shown any symptoms.

The jump was a concern for experts, even if the Ebola-Reston strain of the virus is not deadly as other strains.

"Viruses jumping across species is always worrying," said Lo Wing-lok, an infectious diseases expert in Hong Kong.

"If it continues to do so, the virus will adapt to the human body or may mutate to become more transmissible among humans."

Even though the past human cases of Ebola-Reston have been mild, Lo warned against any complacency.

"We can't say for sure that it is not dangerous to man, we have to follow developments very closely," Lo said.  "In the past, the infections happened to a very small number of people.

"But this virus may get magnified in swine and we could get a higher-density virus in the environment and more cases of human infection can occur," he said.