The Ebola-Reston virus, recently found for the first time in pigs in the Philippines, has now been confirmed to have infected at least one human. Scientists are relieved because the person did not get sick and is unlikely to have passed the virus to others. The virus is related to Ebola strains that have caused fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans in Africa. But Ebola-Reston has not caused serious illness in the two dozen people previously infected through contact with monkeys dying from the viral disease. Officials are concerned about finding the virus in pigs because the farm animals live in close proximity to humans and are thought to be "mixing vessels" where animal viruses mutate into forms dangerous to humans.
The virus has been known to be circulating in the Philippines since 1989, periodically appearing in outbreaks fatal to monkeys. The virus was confirmed in pigs for the first time last fall, prompting a joint investigation by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health. The person in the Philippines who was found to have the disease, announced jointly by the Philippine departments of health and agriculture on 23 January, remains healthy, and officials believe it extremely unlikely the virus was passed to other humans. The international and local experts are still trying to determine how the person got infected, if the virus causes illness in pigs, and if it is in wider circulation among pigs. Their findings will likely lead to recommendations to prevent pigs from being exposed to the virus.