Ebola Virus Reston Strain in hogs: Should we be alarmed?

in Medicine/Opportunities by

Frankly, to some degree, I am.

Had it not been for an item in one newspaper and Google Health Maps, I would have left this story to the epidemiologist and infectious disease experts and enjoy Pacquiao’s glamorous boxing stints. But this news pinched an area of my curiosity.

Pigs in three Philippine hog farms have been found infected with the Ebola Reston virus, a strain not harmful to humans, officials say.-9News Australia

This strain of Ebola virus (Reston) was previously known to infect monkeys and Department of Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap assured Filipinos this Ebola strain is non pathogenic to humans.

However, following the news items “anchored” on the Philippines’ Google health map location, suggest that much is still unknown of this Ebola strain.

  1. Where is the reservoir host of this strain? The reservoir host has not been identified since it was discovered more than a decade ago.
  2. Why is there a cross specie infection now? It was thought to be affecting monkeys before and now it was documented to infect hogs!
  3. Years ago, some people tested positive for antibodies (seroconversion) against this strain of Ebola. They did not fell ill however. No explanations for this yet.
  4. This Ebola Reston Virus was detected from hogs coming from the Philippines and exported to US. The implication was, our DA and DOH did not detect the “recurrence?” of this strain until their US counterparts did!
  5. How come the US inspected and tested hogs from the Philippines when it was known to infect monkeys before? Is this routine testing protocol or were they suspecting something else???

I can come up more with more scary questions but the bottom line is- we should be vigilant and take precautionary measures against this “potential” threat. While we don’t want to pull down the market of our hog industry because of bad publicity, we cannot let our guard off for some potentially unknown enemy. It has been recurring for decades, who knows what happened in between those decades.

Update: The following news from The Wall Street Journal and ABS CBN News tell us that it was as early as oct 30, 2008 where the ebola virus was found but announcement by DA was only made Dec 10,2008. 

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).