January 30, 2009

Four New Human Cases Of Ebola Discovered In Philippines

The government said Friday four more people infected with the Ebola-Reston virus have been discovered in the Philippines and the possibility of pig-to-human transmission cannot be dismissed.

Health Secretary leader Francisco Duque told a news conference that it was not a major health risk, but the government is testing people who might have been in contact with sick pigs at hog farms placed under quarantine since October of last year.

Duque said the Ebola-Reston virus is both an animal and human health issue, but at this time, was still considered a low risk situation in human health.

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) had been asked to determine the source and risk of the Ebola-Reston virus in pigs and its impact on food security, Duque said.

The current outbreak marks the first time the virus has been found outside monkeys and the first time it has been found in pigs. It has, however, previously jumped from monkeys to humans but it has never before jumped from hogs.

The Ebola-Reston virus was discovered in the Philippines during the late 1980s after 25 people were found infected after contact with sick monkeys. Only one person developed flu-like symptoms, but later recovered.

Government reports said at least 50 workers in the two farms were exposed to the virus last week, but only one person tested positive. The patient has not shown any symptoms and has, so far, remained healthy.

Four new cases had been found and these people possibly had direct contact with sick pigs, Duque said. Three of them were farm workers and one was a butcher.

He warned that the possibility of pig-to-human transmission couldn't be dismissed at this time.

"Contact tracing of all five positive individuals is ongoing. It is a standard procedure to determine health risks to humans who are in close contract with positive individuals."

Currently, all four of the men who were found positive remain healthy and have not been seriously ill in the past 12 months.

"Tissue samples from 140 pigs from the two quarantined farms have been sent abroad for tests," said Davinio Catbagan, director of the bureau of animal industry.

Tests on more than 1,000 blood samples from pigs in the two affected farms had yielded negative results.

Catbagan said no current unusual pig illness has been detected in these two farms and only two pigs died when the Ebola-Reston virus was discovered in October 2008.

Government figures indicate the country has more than 13 million heads of swine and the discovery of Ebola-Reston in two farms was isolated.

The public has been asked to report unusual pig deaths or illness. The government is also cautioning consumers from buying cheap pork and to fully cook meat bought from reputable sources.

The government has also asked commercial and backyard farms to practice safe farming and biosecurity measures to prevent and contain any future outbreaks, Duque said.


On the Net: