The Ebola-Reston virus outbreak in Philippine pigs is now costing farmers a lot of money, but so far no humans have died, thank the Lord.
Last month, when some pigs that probably died of other viruses were found to have been infected with a type of Ebola virus only found previously in monkeys, no one here seemed to get upset.
As my cousin, Doctor Angie, said: Why worry about Ebola when we have so many other diseases here? And indeed, we are in the midst of a bad influenza epidemic, not to mention the usual diarrhea that pops up now that the hot season has started.
And indeed, the main problem with the pig’s EbolaReston virus will be economic.
Today it was announced that 6000 pigs at a pig farm in Bulacan (north of Manila) will be killed and destroyed, with the humans wearing protective gear so as not to catch the virus. To compensate the farm owner, it will take 30 million pesos. So far it’s not know who will pay the bill, or if the government will compensate the farmer.
But destroying that many pigs will cost a bit:
GMA news reports that
the slaughter of hogs, which will involve stunning the pigs unconscious, burning them in a pit, and burying them at the site, would need around P500,000.Â (about $10,000US).
You can’t just go kill the pigs: It has to be done humanely (to please the animal rights activists from Manila).
And then there is always the danger that someone will divert some of the pork to the blackmarket: So GMA also reports that there will be a heavy police presence.
Here in the Philippines, there are both pig and chicken farms. They raise the animals mainly to sell to the locals and to the Manila area. However, there are a lot of small farms that are less closely regulated that sell locally. Our neighbor slaughters and sells a few pigs every day at the market; you see them arrive from the farm, often in a small wagon behind a jeep or tricycle.
So now the real question is how to regulate the meat?
We live in a different province, but one worker at a slaughterhouse in the “big city” near us has tested positive for Ebola Reston (again, like all “human” cases so far, he was not sick but signs that he had been infected showed on a blood test).
The local government will continue to monitor the local farms, and the government will expand their monitoring program not only to local piggeries but also pigs raised in farms and “back yards”.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.