RP raises alert on hog virus
Pork exports stopped
By Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:19:00 12/10/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government warned consumers on Wednesday about the ebola reston virus, which was found to have infected four hog farms in Luzon.
In a joint briefing, the Departments of Agriculture and of Health assured the public, however, that this low pathogenic strain was found to be "harmless" and "predominantly an animal health issue."
"Even if you are exposed to this virus, you will not get sick. This is not like the ebola virus which had hit Africa years ago," officials stressed.
As a precautionary measure, Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said the DA placed on quarantine the four farms in Pandi, Bulacan; Manaoag, Pangasinan, and the towns of Cabanatuan and Talavera in Nueva Ecija.
Yap, together with Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, also advised consumers to buy meat only from accredited retail outlets; to properly handle and wash meat; and cook it thoroughly.
Yap has assured that monitoring of Bulacan hog farms will continue until all areas or farms there are free of the virus.
"I am confident that Visayas and Mindanao are not affected because since 1995, we have already stopped moving animals from Luzon to these two areas," he said,
The agriculture chief said on Wednesday the Philippine government was suspending pork exports until ensuring virus-free hog products.
"We have just started to look into the export market, so the industry will not lose anything. But we want to establish that we are responsible exporters," he said.
Agriculture and health officials, along with representatives from the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, explained that the ebola reston virus has been endemic to the Philippines and was detected in monkeys which the country had exported to the United States. This was in 1989, 1992, and 1996, they added.
They, however, assured that of the 20 human handlers of the monkeys tested positive for ebola reston, only one manifested flu-like symptoms but had since fully recovered.
"What is clear is that ebola reston does not cause death to humans. There is no clear evidence that this can be transferred to a person and cause a casualty," Yap stressed.
Yap and Duque said they would write to the Paris-based Animal Health Organization to ask for support and technical assistance in clearing these farms and in eradicating the virus from the country.
Food handlers and the public are advised to follow five food safety rules namely: to keep clean; separate raw and cooked food; cook meat thoroughly; keep food at safe temperature; and use safe water and select fresh food.