DOH confirms Ebola Reston Virus case in PH facility

Jee Y. Geronimo
DOH confirms Ebola Reston Virus case in PH facility
(UPDATED) Monkeys held captive in an unnamed facility in the country have the Ebola Reston Virus but staff have tested negative for it, the DOH says

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday, September 5, confirmed that monkeys held captive in an unnamed facility in the country have the Ebola Reston Virus (ERV).

In a press statement, Health Secretary Janette Garin said the virus can be transmitted by the monkeys to humans “without resulting in illness.” The threat posed to healthy adults ranges from “low to none”.

“Maraming klase ng Ebola. Merong Ebola na grabe ang epekto sa hayop nguni’t hindi naapektuhan ang tao. This is a possible case of Ebola Reston. Ito ang pinakamabait na Ebola Virus sa tao,” Garin explained.

(There are many types of Ebola. There is a type whose effect on animals is grave but does not affect humans. This is a possible case of Ebola Reston. This is the mildest and kindest type of Ebola for humans.)

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) already sent samples from the monkeys to Japan and Australia for confirmatory tests. 

Quarantined

Garin described the facility as a “research lab and a breeding facility” for monkeys that is “not that open to the public.”

There are currently 301 monkeys in the facility, some of which tested positive for ERV. Garin said there was an outbreak of measles in the facility a few weeks ago “which probably pulled down the resistance of many of the monkeys.”

“The immediate action now is to quarantine the area, to prevent movement while we study the cause of the virus on the monkeys,” Bureau of Animal Industry Director Rubina Cresencio said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

To ensure the safety of 25 personnel in the unnamed facility, Garin said blood samples were collected from employees and were sent to the RITM for “ERV antibodies using ELISA or Enzyme Immunoserbent assay.”

The results yielded negative for ERV.

The DOH will continue monitoring the health status of the staff employed in the same facility. The department also provided them with personal protective equipment. 

Garin assured the public there is no need to panic. 

“I think the misinformation happened, the fear came from the fact that testing [was] being done at RITM. So most of the people think that when it’s RITM, they do tests on people. But the testing for Ebola [Reston], RITM has the equipment and the capacity,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

The Philippines is said to be the only known geographic source of the only Ebola virus strain that does not cause disease in humans.

The first outbreak was detected in 1989 among laboratory monkeys in the US. The source was traced to a Philippine exporter that shipped infected monkeys to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. 

The DOH will give updates on the issue on September 10. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.