Animals spread dangerous Ebola virus to humans


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) The Ebola virus spreads one of the most dangerous diseases in the world. No scientist knows who the hosts are and how it is transmitted to humans.

Ebola is the common term for a group of viruses of the family Filoviridae, and for the disease that they cause, Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The virus is named after the Ebola River, where the first recognized outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred. Ebola virus first came to light in 1976 in outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Zaire and Sudan. The Zaire epidemic last year had a fatality rate of 90%, the highest of any pathogenic virus. The virus is believed to be transmitted to humans via contact with an infected animal host. The virus is transmitted to other people that come into contact with the blood and body fluids of the infected person,

Ebola hemorrhagic fever symptoms are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized pain with internal and external bleeding. Mortality rates are extremely high, with the human fatality rate ranging from 50–89%.

There is no vaccine or treatment.  A typical outbreak spreads through a village or hospital, infects the entire population, and then dies out when it runs out of  hosts. 

Ebola Reston is a variation. It came to the attention of the world when it was found in monkeys imported from the Philippines into the United States in the city of Reston, Virginia in 1989. It kills monkeys but was not known to seriously harm people. So, after the initial scare which inspired Richard Preston to write The Hot Zone (which became the movie Outbreak) it has been largely ignored even though it is the only strain known to be airborne.

However, it can be ignored no longer.  Ebola Reston has been found in pigs in the Philippines which were bound for export as meat , in two commercial and two backyard free range farms in three provinces. The Philippine Government , in December 2008 , asked the UN World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to send scientists to help them discover how pigs contracted Ebola. Planned shipments of 50,000 tonnes of pork to Singapore and other countries have now been suspended after traces of Ebola-Reston virus were found. If the virus had not been caught in America , they would have gone completely undetected in their home country or in any other country that the meat had been exported to.
Unusual deaths in pigs in May 2008 caused the Philippine government to send the pork for testing to the USDA’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on Long Island in August. Ebola Reston was identified on October 30, 2008 in the samples and the Philippine Department of Agriculture was informed. International health officials have expressed concern over the fact that this was not made public until December end and pork continued to be served across the country. The Philippine government’s Davinio Catbagan, director for the Philippines' Bureau of Animal Industry cited concern for the pork industry as the reason for the delay ! According to people at the WHO and the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, the Philippine authorities decided to go public only after being pressured by those two groups and the FAO. Dr. Bernard Vallat, director-general of the OIE, said it was "not an easy negotiation" to persuade Philippine authorities to go public with the news which they did on December 10, 2008.

Ebola in pigs is a very bad thing. It should scare the hell out of you. Viruses cause diseases like the common cold, HIV, chicken pox, small pox etc. Viruses mutate very fast because they multiply very fast. They can be harmless now but be very harmful in an instant. The scary thing about Ebola Reston is that it is airborne. It just needs one tiny mutation and every other disease will look good. 

The presence of the Ebola-Reston virus in the Philippine pigs  has rung emergency alarms all over the world . The virus has gone from monkeys to pigs in a very short time. Pigs serve as genetic mixing vessels for viruses that pass from animals to humans. "When a virus jumps species, in this case from monkeys to pigs, we become concerned, as pigs are much closer to humans than monkeys and this is usually the route viruses take to "jump" to humans," says Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO.

More than 60% of the estimated 1,415 infectious diseases known to us are capable of infecting both animals and humans. Diseases such as anthrax, Rift Valley fever and monkey pox are zoonotic, meaning they originated in animals but have crossed the species barrier to infect people. New virulent zoonotic diseases have originated such as West Nile Fever, Marburg , Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever and Avian Influenza..

It is estimated that about 75 % of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past  20 years have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or animal products. This was the case of HIV-- the virus that causes Aids, which experts believe jumped the species divide from apes to humans and has killed over 100 million people so far.

Livestock agriculture is the most important industry of many countries. Factory farming, careless imports and exports , a rise in meat eating which has lead to farms overcrowding their livestock, feeding them bad food, hormones and antibiotics have led to many more viral mutations which are zoonotic

Who knows which pig farms sold pork from ebola victims or exported the meat to countries like India that have no safeguards on checking meat ? Who knows how many live pigs have been brought in by breeders . This could be the lethal bomb that could kill us all – starting with those people who eat the meat. All across India, pigs are grown for meat in all the slum colonies in the filthiest conditions. Who knows where they will take this disease and who knows which other animals bred for meat could be carrying it ?  After all bird flu also started as a common flu for chickens only.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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