Manila: The government has banned the export of Philippine monkeys for four years, officials said, adding that a total of 7,300 monkeys from three breeding facilities were quarantined after the outbreak of Ebola Rseton Virus (ERV) in a small-sized facility in mid-August.
“The ban in exporting Philippine macaque will not be lifted until we finish the surveillance of all monkeys in breeding facilities nationwide. That would take three to four years,” Agriculture Undersecretary for Livestock Jose Reano said.
“Exported monkeys must undergo test for ERV, which is very expensive,” Reano explained, adding this is one reason why the government-initiated surveillance of ERV-afflicted monkeys is a long and arduous process.
In mid-August, at a breeding facility with 300 monkeys, fourteen tested positive for the virus; 10 monkeys died of the virus, and the four that are alive were placed under close observation, the agriculture department said in a statement. It added these were the first few cases of ERV outbreak since 1997.
Investigations showed that the 10 ill-fated monkeys originated from two other large breeding facilities: one has a population of 3,000 monkeys, while the other has 4,000 monkeys, said statement said.
A total of 291 monkeys — 35 in one facility, and 256 in another facility — underwent tests for ERV. Tests will continue until a total of 7,300 monkeys are tested for the deadly virus, the statement added.
Personnel of the departments of health and agriculture and the Bureau of Animal Industry succeeded in tracing the source of ERV outbreak, said Health Secretary Janette Garin.
A total of 62 workers — 30 in one facility and 32 more in another facility — underwent ERV tests as well. “All of them tested negative of ERV,” said Garin.
Meanwhile, the government warned the public to avoid taking care of monkeys, a source who requested anonymity told Gulf News.
Those with pet monkeys should have them checked. ERV-free monkeys should be released in forested lairs. If found positive of ERV, they should be reported to the government, said the source.
The department of environment and natural resources began a surveillance of Philippine bats, which host ERV, including the virulent Zaire strain that resulted in West Africa’s outbreak in 2014.
The first ERV-afflicted Philippine monkeys were found in a laboratory in Reston, Virginia, in 1989.