Anyone who has read the best seller “The Hot Zone” knows about the Ebola virus, a virus that is hiding in Africa, and one that kills 90% of those infected by destroying the body’s tissues and causing massive bleeding.

In the book, a strain of the virus killed all the monkeys in a Reston Virginia lab…but luckily it was a strain that did not cause illness in humans. The virus was eventually traced back to the monkey breeding farm in the southern Philippines; all the monkeys there were destroyed, and although a few employees tested positive for antibodies, there were no outbreaks in humans.

End story…or maybe not.

In the last few days, reports about the presence of the Ebola-Reston virus has been found in samples of sick pigs. Ironically, the pigs also were infected, and probably died of other “routine” diseases that are being monitored by the health department.

From PigProgressNet:

The Ebola-Reston strain has surfaced in Philippine swine samples proving that the deadly disease is capable of infecting livestock….
The pigs, which came from four farms north of Manila, were also infected with at least two more-common diseases, stated Davinio P. Catbagan, the Philippines’ chief veterinary officer. An outbreak of diseases which begun late last year wiped out entire herds in some cases….

The animals were also infected with porcine circovirus type 2 and a type of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome similar to that which killed pigs in China and Vietnam during the past two years..

Oh great, we live north of Manila in this area, although we don’t run any piggeries, we do eat local pork.

The presence of the Ebola Reston virus in local pigs has several public health implications:

One: how did the virus get hundreds of miles north into Central Luzon?

Two: Were the pigs sick (and dying) because of “ordinary” infectious diseases, or did the EbolaReston virus make them sick?

Three: What are the implications of the “jump” of the virus across species?

So far, the reports in the Philippine press seem more worried about the negative impact on pig exports and on the local pork industry than they are about having a potential time bomb epidemic among humans.

The disease is being treated as any other animal disease. After all, there are no monkeys in this agricultural area of the Philippines, the virus has never been known to make people sick, and of course, there has been no reports of sick people in the area.

This is good, since with the Christmas holidays, the eating of pork, especially lechon* at fiestas and parties, is widespread.

So should we worry?

Probably not.As noted above, the Reston type of Ebola doesn’t make human beings sick.

But the “cross species” jump worries me. That implies a mutation in the disease…

But why worry? Farmers would never sell sick or dying animals for meat, now, would they?

Whoops: from the Inquirer:

MANILA, Philippines–(UPDATE) A few days after the Ebola-Reston virus hit hog farms in Luzon, health officials in Quezon City seized over 1,000 kilos of “double dead” meat at the Balintawak market early Friday morning.

“DoubleDead” meat is meat that is spoiled, often because it comes from animals that have died from disease but that are sold anyway. It is an ongoing problem in the Philippines.

So far, no reports of disease, but the presence of Ebola (even the Reston strain) is not going to help the tourist industry during the holidays.

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*Lechon: barbecued suckling pig.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

 

 

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