February 2009: A jointly organized FAO, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organization (WHO) mission was undertaken with national counterparts in the Philippines, in order to collect pig blood and tissue samples from two affected pig farms under quarantine, namely Bulacan and Pangasinan. Diagnostic tests were carried out first by the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) and then by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were done on pig and human samples collected since the start of the Ebola Reston investigation.
Of 160 pig blood samples that were positive for antibodies, 133 came from Bulacan and 27 from Pangasinan. Those from Bulacan were traced to pigs of different age groups, while those in Pangasinan were found in sows and just one piglet. Of the 19 pigs with tissue samples positive for ERV by real-time RT-PCR, all were traced to Bulacan. This corroborates the earlier tests done by RITM, showing that Bulacan has ongoing viral transmission.
Depopulation of pigs on the Bulacan farm will take place immediately, following current OIE standards that ensure the protection of animal welfare (i.e. humane killing), operator safety (to minimize human exposure) and bio-security (to curtail wider spread). National and local government agencies and international observers will participate in the implementation of depopulation procedures. The government has arranged fair compensation for the Bulacan farm, to ease compliance with depopulation and to cushion economic losses, including the livelihoods of affected pig farmers. Quarantine will be lifted on the Pangasinan farm, where the transmission appears to be contained.
Six out of 147 human samples tested for Ebola Reston Antigens and Antibodies (either IgG or IgM) were positive for IgG antibodies. These came from the affected farms (Bulacan and Pangasinan) and from slaughterhouses in Pangasinan and Cabanatuan.
The Sanitation Code has been reiterated and all farm and slaughterhouse workers should wear PPE (gloves, masks, boots, aprons).
Concerned agencies and partners will continue to rigorously implement the same four lines of defense:
- reporting all unusual occurrences of herds with sick or dying pigs;
- cautiously handling and disposing of sick or dying pigs, including raw meat, blood and other bodily secretions, ensuring the practice of proper hand washing;
- prohibiting and confiscating double dead meat that would otherwise enter the food chain;
- cooking pork thoroughly with adequate heat.
Disease surveillance will be expanded to other farms within a confined radius of affected farms, as well as to other areas where past or current outbreaks were/are reported. Surveillance will also be carried out on farms or in areas where Ebola Reston virus is detected.
Together with international and domestic agencies and partners, both the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health (DOH) will carry out further scientific studies to determine the source of Ebola Reston virus in pigs, characterize pig to pig and pig to human transmission and also infection or possible illness in pigs and humans.