Now it can be blogged about.
A few months back as I was doing my fieldwork in Bangkok, Thailand, colleagues relayed to me a news about an animal disease outbreak in the Philippines. As much as I’m used to hearing zoonotic diseases, this one made me to worry a bit for my relatives back home as it involved the dreaded ebola virus, which causes the deadly ebola haemmorhagic fever.
‘Fortunately,’ the ebola outbreak among hogs in the Philippines was caused by the low pathogenic ebola reston strain, which does not affect humans. When it was first detected in the US in 1989, it fatally affected monkeys. The suspected monkeys that introduced the virus came from the Philippines. The ebola reston outbreaks were reported in the Philippines between 1989 and 1990.
In the current outbreak, details are sketchy but the possible scenario is this: Philippine laboratories detected the strain in pigs and submitted it to a US laboratory for confirmation.
It took a while for Philippine animal health authorities to release the news although it is certain that investigations were continuing after the outbreak was confirmed and strict biosecurity measures in the farms and province reportedly affected were properly imposed.
The Philippine government recently confirmed the ebola outbreak among hogs almost a little more than a month after it was detected. It immediately stopped pig meat exports “as a precautionary measure.” Philippine authorities assured the public that the ebola virus in pigs was not fatal to humans. The Philippine animal and public health authorities again urged the public to buy only government certified meat. Further tests in other farms showed negative results confirming that the ebola outbreak among hogs was an isolated incident.
Philippine Agriculture officials assured affected farmers of aid and claimed that it will seek international assistance to finally investigate the reservoir of the virus in the country. It has invited international animal health experts and veterinarians to investigate. A Bloomberg report said that international health experts are positive about the recent hog ebola outbreaks will finally lead scientists “to ‘elusive reservoir’ of virus.”
Disclaimer: Jim used to work for the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry and the Food and Agriculture Organization (Philippines and Bangkok)