Number of Humans With Pig Ebola in the Philippines Rises to Five

By Eliza Strickland | February 5, 2009 7:01 pm

pigThe number of people infected with Ebola traced from pigs in the Philippines has reached five, but health officials say there is no cause for panic–although they do advise wary attention. The strain of the disease, Ebola Reston, is thought not to be dangerous to humans, and the first identified case, a pig handler who was infected at least six months ago, is still healthy. But experts say there remains some concern because pigs are mixing vessels for other human and animal viruses, like flu, and because it shows that pigs may also be able to transmit the lethal strains of Ebola. Far more humans are in regular contact with pigs than with apes, monkeys or bats, the other known hosts [The New York Times].

The virus was first identified in pigs in the Philippines last year, at which point two farms were closed and blood samples collected from 6,000 pigs and 50 workers. From those, four pigs and one worker tested positive, says Francisco Duque, the Philippine health secretary. In January, a new round of testing turned up four more infected men who worked on pig farms and in slaughterhouses.

Duque insists there is no reason for the public to be alarmed, saying that all five men seem to be in good health and are no longer carrying the virus. He adds that the presence of antibodies in the five patients demonstrates the “protective defense” that they have built up against the Ebola Reston virus. Like the first positive human, the four others are also healthy and have not been seriously ill in the previous 12 months” [The Philippine Star], says Duque.

There is “more need to investigate than to worry” [The New York Times] says Juan Lubroth, an agriculture official with the United Nations. Lubroth also says that the pigs involved had multiple infections, and that it might not have been Ebola that made them so sick. “But farmers, of course, would prefer to have pigs without Ebola,” he said. “So we want to do more testing to see what they can do to protect them” [The New York Times].

Related Content:
80beats: Global Warming Could Bring a Surge in 12 Deadly Diseases, including Ebola
80beats: A Vulnerable Spot on the Ebola Virus’ Shell
DISCOVER: Caught in the Hot Zone describes the toll Ebola is taking on gorillas
DISCOVER: Marburg and Ebola Vaccine
DISCOVER: Ebola Tamed–for Now

Image: flickr / Laurel Fan

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://valentinesagefieldvineyard valensage

    Perhaps there is more to worry about than meets the surface. Is it possible the Ebola virus, which is transmittable to humans, may also act as a host for other pathogens to “ride upon” as to infect the human body? as otherwise without the Ebola, those harmful pathogens were “locked out” from the human.

  • Jen

    The last comments regarding antibodies brings up the question, can this apparently non-lethal strain of ebola create antibodies that could ward of the lethal strain? If so, we might be able to make a vaccine to innoculate people to help end, or at least mitigate, this very terrible virus.

  • Bob Snyder

    I would imagine that an expert would answer no to both questions, but that’s just an opinion.

  • Mike Vickery

    Pig Ebola (Ebola Reston) seems to produce only minor symptoms in humans and may be air borne. More lethal forms of Ebola such as Ebola Zaire has a morbidity (“Kill”) rate of 90% in humans, but are transmitted by contact with body fluids … ie, “Not Air Borne”.

    More lethal Ebolas, so far have failed to produce pandemics, it is believed, because of the sheer speed at which they incapacitate and kill.

    Maybe a prior infection with E. Reston could impart some, but incomplete measure of immunity against the deadlier Ebolas. If this were to happen then deadlier forms of Ebola could travel into large urban centres, other countries and who knows? maybe airborne infection might become enabled.

    This is all very hypothetical, but my other immediate concern over the Ebola issue relates to Australia, my country of residence.

    In Australia we have an organisation called “Biosecurity” which seems dilligently intent on destroying food and fruit production inside Australia by importing all sorts from abroad. Recently Biosecurity gave the “Greenlight” for the importation of bananas from the Philllipines … although Australia has its own very active banana industry.

    Today I “Googled” Ebola-Reston, Pigs, Phillipines, any language, over the past week and found a total of 1,364 entries. Guess how many from Australia? … only one (1).

    Does the Australian Biosecurity want to keep under wraps that fact that its proposed banana supplier, the Phillipines, has Ebola Reston that could end up in Australia via pigs or by ride hitching, Fruit Bats (suspected to be the disease’s natural reservoir)?

    Australian fruit growers generally regard the word “Biosecurity” as an oxymoron and a pestilence in its own right. Highlighting this latest Ebola news would only compound this perception. Is this yet another “embarassment” and the reason why we ain’t getting much Australian media exposure on the Phillipine Ebola?

    Mike Vickery


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar