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Ebola virus spreads in the Philippines

FOUR more people in the Philippines have been discovered infected by the Ebola-Reston virus and the possibility of pig-to-human transmission cannot be dismissed, the government said yesterday.

It was not a major health risk, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said, adding that the government was however widening testing of people who might have been in contact with sick pigs at hog farms placed under quarantine since October 2008.

"The Ebola-Reston virus is an animal and human health issue, but we consider this as a low risk situation to human health," Duque said.

He said the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Organization for Animal Health had been asked to determine the source and risk of the Ebola-Reston virus in pigs and impact on food security.

It is the first time the virus has been found outside monkeys and the first time it has been found in pigs. The virus had previously jumped from monkeys to humans but it is the first case of a jump from hogs.

Ebola-Reston virus was found in the Philippines as early as the late 1980s and 25 people were found infected after contact with sick monkeys. But only one developed flu-like symptoms and later recovered.

Last week, the government said at least 50 workers in the two farms were exposed to the virus but only one person tested positive. This person has not shown any symptoms and has remained healthy.

Duque said four new cases had been found and these people possibly had direct contact with sick pigs. Three of them were farm workers while one was a butcher, he added.

"At this time, the possibility of pig-to-human transmission cannot be dismissed," Duque said.

"Contact tracing of all five positive individuals is ongoing. It is a standard procedure to determine health risks to humans who are in close contact with positive individuals."


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