The Philippines has suspended macaque exports after an Ebola virus strain that is non-fatal to humans struck 20 monkeys, killing 11, officials said on Thursday.
Health Secretary Jannette Garin said the Ebola Reston Virus found in the monkeys in two undisclosed breeding facilities in the country that house an estimated 7,000 monkeys was the mildest strain and had no relation to the deadly strain that killed thousands of people in Africa.
“This is a different Ebola strain. It’s the opposite. The effect of the Ebola Zaire in animals is not fatal, almost nothing but it’s fatal to humans. That’s the one in Africa. But the strain here is the opposite. It’s fatal to animals, but not to humans,” she noted.
“In case of contamination, the person infected will not have any illness. He’ll not feel anything. Eto po yung pinakamabait na Ebola sa tao [this is the kind of Ebola that is kind to humans],” Garin said.
Eleven captive Philippine macaques have died after contracting the bat-borne Ebola Reston virus while nine others are under treatment, the officials said.
“All exports are suspended while we investigate this incident,” Simeon Amurao, assistant director of the Bureau of Animal Industry, said.
The Philippines is among the world’s major exporters of laboratory monkeys and has so far shipped close to 300 monkeys to Japan this year, and 600 last year, Amurao added.
“This kind of Ebola is the least harmful in terms of human affectation. This is limited to monkeys,” Garin told reporters.
“The situation has been contained. The possible sources [of infection]have been traced.”
She said 62 workers in two monkey-breeding facilities all tested negative for infection in August following the deaths of 10 macaques that had exhibited Ebola symptoms.
Agriculture Undersecretary Jose Reaño said the workers will undergo another testing after the quarantine period ends in 21 days.
Doctors at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine initially found the virus in the blood samples from monkeys in the breeding facilities last week.
The 10 animal fatalities were traced to two other undisclosed breeding centers where another 10 tested positive for the virus, one of which died, Garin said.
“The situation has been contained. All nine monkeys are recovering, but surveillance will continue We want to prevent the transmission of humans to animals if they tested positive to ERV,” she added.