Ebola-Reston virus found in dead pigs – why the Phil Govt should’ve never kept silent about it

It’s not like I want to spoil the Christmas mood but in case you haven’t heard, the Ebola-Reston virus has been found in some of the dead pigs grown from local farms in Luzon.

The troubling detail about this news is that the Philippine Government, has been silent about it until this December, and after being pressured by international health organizations to go public about it.

A more detailed report from ABS-CBN news online has a run down of the events based on a report by The Wall Street Journal:

The TWSJ report gave details on the discovery of the Ebola-Reston virus in some samples from dead pigs sent from the Philippines citing sources from the World Health Organization (WHO), Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

The TWSJ report said that according to officials of the three international organizations and the Philippines’ Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), high rates of sickness and death among livestock were noticed by hog farmers near Manila as early as May.

Philippine authorities in August reportedly sent samples from the dead pigs to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The scientists reportedly detected the presence of several diseases, including a devastating pig virus known as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), or blue-ear pig disease.

Weeks later, during a Oct. 30 teleconference, officials of the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture were notified that scientists of the US animal disease center “had further discovered Ebola Reston virus in six of the 28 pig samples sent to the US,” said the TWSJ report.

The report said the Philippine government only announced on Decenber 10 the presence of the Ebola Reston virus. The report said the Philippine government cited “concern for the pork industry and a lack of evidence that humans were in any danger.”

Don’t panic yet

Experts say that the pigs did not die because of the Ebola-Reston virus, but the mere presence of the virus in those dead pigs is reason enough to conduct a thorough investigation so as to find out if it would be a threat to us humans.

What is the Ebola-Reston virus?

The Reston ebolavirus, also referred to as Asian filovirus, Reston virus, or Ebola Reston—is suspected as either another subtype of the Ebola or a new filovirus of Asian origin. It was discovered in crab-eating macaques from Hazleton Laboratories (now Covance) in 1989. Despite its status as a Level-4 organism, the Reston ebolavirus is non-pathogenic to humans and is only mildly fatal to monkeys; the perception of its lethality was skewed due to the monkey’s coinfection with Simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV). (Wikipedia)

Again, up to this date, there is no reported case of Ebola-Reston virus causing a human death. Read the Wikipedia entry and it’s cited sources about this.

What is being done to remedy the case?

However, caution must still be exercised diligently. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO), Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has pressured Philippine officials to go public about this. It’s the public right to know. Our safety and well-being is more important than the economic prospects of exporting local pork.

Plus, a mission to investigate the presence of the virus is being organized so that the source of the infection could be found.

Again, I quote the ABS-CBN report as to why an investigation must be carried out:

The WHO, in the TWSJ report, said the Philippine discovery is significant since pigs have served as genetic mixing vessels for viruses that pass from animals to humans.

“When a virus jumps species, in this case from monkeys to pigs, we become concerned, particularly as pigs are much closer to humans than monkeys in their ability to harbor viruses,” said Peter Cordingley, WHO Western Pacific spokesman, in the report.

With Christmas and the New Year coming soon, pork would be a staple food to be served. Though there no warnings have been issued about eating pork in connection to this discovery, it’s still much safer to cook our pork meat thoroughly and make sure it wasn’t taken from a sick or dying pig.

The government’s silence about this incident is troublesome and quite worrying. Being pressured by international health organizations to come out publicly is reason for added concern.

Just like “Outbreak” but in real-life

What’s ironic about this whole incident is that it’s just like what happened in the 1995 film “Outbreak” which starred Dustin Hoffman about a fictional strain of the Ebola virus jumping from monkeys to humans and how the government will do anything to cover it up.

The clincher is that the movie was based on the non-fiction book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston which in turn was based on the real-life studies on the Ebola-Reston virus when it was first discovered in monkeys from the Philippines back in 1989 by scientists in Reston, Virginia.

Real life is truly stranger scarier than fiction!

3 Comments

  1. more people should have mindsets like yours (at least regarding public health) and read articles like these.

    i dont know what these officials were thinking.. why are they hiding the situation? are they ashamed of it? are they guilty about it?

    the answer to both of these questions should be no.

    in fact it's the government's obligation to keep the public informed of the state situation, including those matters regarding health. specifically concerning the outbreak in bulacan and nueva ecija, current knowledge of virus demands a precautionary investigation into the identity of ebola-reston and trace back how it infected the pigs. epidemiology, people. then develop/make widely available the diagnostics for it. then try to prevent it from happening again. because this is not just for humans, it's for the pigs and the pig industry too.

    it's very likely that the ebola came from the jungle, where a bat or other mammal may serve as a reservoir for the virus.

    Reply

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