The deadly Ebola virus has struck several monkeys imported into Texas from the Philippines, public health officials confirmed Monday as they worked to contain the outbreak at a primate quarantine facility.
Doctors have no reports of bites or scratches to monkey handlers at HRP Inc., in Alice, Texas, but are watching the employees carefully as a precaution, said state epidemiologist Dr. Diane Simpson.
Two monkeys out of a shipment of 100 have been found sick so far.
Federal experts diagnosed the Texas illnesses Monday as similar - although not an exact match - to the Ebola strain that decimated a Reston, Va., monkey facility in 1989. That’s good news because the Reston strain appears less deadly to people than the killer Ebola found in the wild, explained Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Bob Howard.
In Reston, four people were exposed to the bloody virus but never got sick. However, federal disease fighters protected by airtight suits had to kill every monkey and destroy the remains.
This strain “is clearly less pathogenic to humans … but we can’t say it’s completely innocuous,” Howard said.
“Once again, Ebola has proven it’s quite capable at any time of stepping out the jungle in any species, both man and primate.”
Ebola is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, causing 80 percent of its victims to bleed to death. It is spread through bodily fluids, commonly through a break in the skin. It has no treatment and no cure.
Last year, in the central African nation of Zaire, Ebola infected 316 people and killed 245. Earlier this year, at least 13 people died from Ebola in Gabon in western Africa.
But there are strains of the mysterious virus that seem less deadly. The one that struck the Reston importer of Filipino monkeys in 1989, killing dozens of primates, is one such strain. Four people were known to have been exposed to the Reston virus, but none became ill.
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