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Ebola Virus Infects Four More In The Philippines

Inquirer.net, News Report, Norman Bordadora/Philippine Daily Inquirer Posted: Jan 30, 2009

MANILA, Phils. --- Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters on Jan. 30 [January 31 in Manila] that four more personsthree hog farmhands and one slaughterhouse workerwere found to have been exposed to the Ebola-Reston virus.

Duque said the discovery of four more exposures brought to five the number of Filipinos in the swine industry found to have contracted the ERV but developed antibodies to defend themselves and remained healthy.

World Health Organization officials maintained that ERV in the country continued to be a low-risk threat to human health.

WHOs Dr. Julie Hall said the five cases increases the likelihood of pig-to-human transmission of the virus, but investigators were not yet certain. She said all five people were now virus-free.

Not Infectious

They are not infectious to others, they therefore do not need to be quarantined, she said.

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

The government had invited experts from WHO, the 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 Bulacan 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.

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

The rare virusfirst discovered among monkeys in the Philippines in 1989has not been known to cause serious illness among humans. At least 25 Filipinos were infected with the virus by monkeys, but only one victim exhibited mild flu-like symptoms.

Three of the Ebola virus five subtypes are associated with deadly hemorrhagic fever in humans; two other subtypes, including the Reston, are not, according to the WHO.

Health officials were trying to locate anyone who may have had contact with the five men.

The Department of Health, the WHO, the Department of Agriculture and the FAO urged the public to report incidences of sick and dying pigs and cook all pork meals thoroughly.

Like the first positive human, the four others are also healthy and have not been seriously ill also in the previous 12 months, Duque said.

Duque made the announcement after the DOH and the DA received the blood test results of 77 persons who may have been exposed to the ERV.

The DA, on the other hand, reported that tests on 1,039 pig blood samples yielded negative results on antigen tests.

Still, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap maintained the quarantine of the farms in Pandi and Talavera towns in Bulacan and Pangasinan where the virus had been discovered and the voluntary export ban on pork.

Philippine Bureau of Animal Industries Chief Davinio Catbagan said the Valenzuela backyard farm of the person exposed to the virus was now being monitored.

Healthy Pigs

There are three pigs in the backyard farm and all of them are healthy. We are monitoring them, Catbagan said.

Catbagan said the National Meat Inspection Service was making sure that only healthy pigs were processed at the Pangasinan slaughterhouseand all other slaughterhouse for that matter.

The investigating team initially reported that exposures of all five individuals were possibly from direct contact with sick pigs. The use of personal protective equipment was not common practice among these animal handlers, Duque said.


Photo credit:USDA


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