A facility in the Philippines is housing monkeys that tested positive for Ebola Reston Virus (ERV) and the Department of Health (DOH) is trying to quell unnecessary fears.
Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto Garin explained that ERV can be transmitted to humans, without resulting into illness. The threat to human health is likely to be low or none for healthy adults. In order to ensure the safety of the staff in the said facility, blood samples were collected from all employees and were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for ERV antibodies using ELISA or Enzyme Immunosorbent assay. The results on the 25 employees of the facility were negative for ERV. While it does not cause any human illness, the DOH will continue to monitor the health status of the staff currently employed in the said facility.
“We call on the public not to panic as wrong information may lead to more harm than help in the community. Vigilance is still needed. Let us be pre-cautious, and adhere to the reminders given by the DOH. This is not something new and was present in the Philippines before. Allow us to emphasize that the present situation is limited to monkeys, Garin concluded.
As Sec. Garin said, ERV is not new in the Philippines. In the fall of 1989, dozens of macaques imported from the Philippines suddenly died at Hazelton Research Products’ primate quarantine unit in Reston, VA, where animals were kept and later sold for lab testing.
A hemorrhagic fever was suspected; however, when a Ebola strain was identified, employees at the facility that were quarantined tested positive for Ebola but never got sick. It was eventually discovered to be the 5th strain of Ebola virus–Ebola Reston.
More recently, in January 2009, the Government of the Philippines announced several people in Luzon that came in contact with sick pigs had tested positive for Ebola Reston Virus (ERV) antibodies (IgG).
The Philippine Department of Health has said that the people who tested positive appear to be in good health and have not suffered from any significant illnesses during the following 12 months.
From these observations and previous studies of ERV, the virus has shown it can be transmitted to humans, without resulting in illness.