The weekend brought some bad news for Philippine agriculture, for Filipino consumers, and basically for anybody in the Philippines. The news actually broke on Friday afternoon. I am actually surprised that it did not get more airtime on the news here, more mention in the papers, etc., because, frankly, it is enough to scare the heck out of you.
Remember a while back when I wrote an article about Ebola Reston being found in a number of pigs in Luzon? Well, that was terrible news, but over the past few days, the news went from terrible to even worse. It was announced on Friday that Ebola Reston has jumped species here in the Philippines. A worker on a hog farm in Luzon has tested positive for Ebola Reston. Yes, that is correct, a human has caught Ebola from a pig. This is the first time in history that Ebola has jumped from a pig to a human.
The testing, which was done in conjunction with WHO (World Health Organization – a part of the United Nations), proved that the man had been infected with Ebola Reston at least 6 months ago. The man is not sick, he is healthy at this time. There is no record that he had any noticeable illness over the last year, so it would appear that the Ebola Reston, while present, was not too harmful him. That is a good sign, but it is still frightening.
One thing we don’t know is how this transfer took place. Was it airborne? Was it through eating pork? Was it by cleaning up the pig pen? Certainly with the man’s close proximity to the swine, there were so many opportunities for such a transfer. If the transfer took place through eating infected pork, that is probably the most frightening possibility, because pork is probably the most widely eaten meat in the country. Should it now be considered dangerous to eat pork?
This episode of pig to human transfer has gotten a lot of coverage in worldwide media too. Some International papers that have covered the story are The Post Chronicle, Associated Press, Reuters, Australia News Network, International Herald Tribune and the Straits Times, among others. There has been Philippine media coverage too, but I feel it has been minimal.
For me, this is a major incident. The United Nations is still studying the implications of Ebola Reston Virus in humans, but so far, Philippine officials are saying that it is safe to eat pork, even if it has Ebola. I feel somewhat isolated from the Virus, because in Mindanao we are an exporter of Pork and Pork from Luzon is generally not making it’s way here. Still, though, it is something to worry about, in my opinion.