PH monitors African wildlife for Ebola

Posted at 08/06/14 9:13 PM

MANILA - The Philippine government is monitoring the entry of wild animals from Africa, which could bring the deadly Ebola epidemic into the country.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said all personnel from the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) assigned in airports and seaports nationwide have been tasked to strictly monitor all imported wild animals and exotic pets, particularly those coming from Ebola-hit countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Paje noted that the Ebola virus is a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected live or dead animals, and more specifically with their body fluid.

In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

The Philippine government stopped issuing permits for wild animals imported from Africa as early as 2006.

"No import permit has been issued by the DENR since 2006 for this purpose, so any shipment coming from any part of Africa is outright illegal," Paje said in a statement.

The DENR chief reminded the public to refrain from keeping wild animals as pets given their potential serious risk to human health.

"Keeping wild and exotic animals as pets threaten public health and safety. These animals can be carriers of zoonotic diseases or contagious diseases that spread between animals and humans," he said.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday began a two-day emergency meeting on west Africa's Ebola epidemic, with the UN agency deciding whether to declare it an international crisis.

Since breaking out earlier this year, the Ebola epidemic in west Africa has claimed 887 lives and infected more than 1,603 people.

Most of the deaths have been in Guinea, but the scale of the epidemic has slowed there, while intensifying in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola, a form of haemorrhagic fever for which there is no vaccine, causes severe muscular pain, fever, headaches and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

It is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, and spreads among humans via bodily fluids.

It has killed around two-thirds of those it has infected since its emergence in 1976, with two outbreaks registering fatality rates approaching 90 percent.

The death rate in the current outbreak is around 55 percent.

Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is named after a river there. With Agence France-Presse