Ebola in the Philippines2nd February 2009
The Ebola-Reston virus has infected four people in the Philippines recently, officials said.
This comes several months after the Ebola-Reston virus was first discovered among pigs in the Philippines, in October 2008.
These are the first-ever pig-to-human transmissions, and according to the government, the possibility that the four latest cases were also transmitted from pigs can not be ruled out.
In the past, the fact that the virus had gone from monkeys to humans worried people less, since monkeys and humans live apart from each other in most parts of the world.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that the Ebola-Reston virus is both an animal and human health issue, though they consider it a low risk to human health.
Whatever the risk, the Philippines is widening its efforts to test people who may have come into contact with pig farms quarantined in October of last year.
Duque said that in order to determine the possible risks, the Philippines consulted scientific experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
The Ebola-Reston virus was found in the Philippines as early as two decades ago.
Infected monkeys spread the disease to 25 humans, though only one developed symptoms.
The government of the Philippines said that only one person of 50 workers exposed to the virus tested positive.
He or she has not shown any symptoms, and remains healthy.
Duque said that three of the four recently infected were farm workers, while one was a butcher.
He said that contact tracing for all five positive individuals is continuing, as a standard procedure to determine health risks to humans.
Davinio Catbagan said that researchers abroad were currently examining tissue samples from pigs at the two farms under quarantine.
Previously, more than 1,000 blood samples from pigs at the two affected farms tested negative.
Catbagan said that no current unusual pig illness has been detected in the two farms.
But epidemiologists fear the disease could mutate, becoming more transmissible among people or among pigs.
Ebola viruses usually spread via contact with the blood of an infected animal or person.
In a country with more than 13 million head of swine, the government has called on the public to report unusual pig deaths or illness.
They are also warning people against purchasing cheap pork, and advising them to cook it thoroughly.
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