A veteran lawmaker urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR to closely monitor exotic animals that are being imported from Africa to ensure they do not carry the deadly Ebola virus upon their entry to the Philippines.
Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian particularly called on the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau or PAWB to be on the lookout for exotic animals, which he said could be possible carriers of the deadly Ebola virus.
Gatchalian issued the statement amid disturbing reports that the deadly Ebola virus has infected around 1,200 individuals in West Africa, where it has left at least 670 people dead across the region since the start of the year.
The Department of Health or DOH has assured the public that the agency “has a game plan” on how to deal with the tropical disease, which has no known cure to date.
Healthy Secretary Enrique Ona said his department is already coordinating with the Department of Labor and Employment or DOLE to “find out how many overseas Filipino workers are based in those countries and other information about other Filipinos who are there.”
“Just like how we handled other viral infections in the past, we’ll make sure this time we’d able to monitor those who arrive in the country, particularly those from West African nations where the virus has reportedly spread,” Ona said.
However, Gatchalian expressed apprehension that other possible carriers of the Ebola virus like exotic animals from Africa entering the country port of entries are not being closely monitored enough by PAWB, which grants the necessary import permits for such animals.
“DOH has secured the port of entries for humans. How about for exotic animals which enters the country illegally. There is a huge illegal exotic animal trade in the country. This should be a cause for alarm for DENR and other concerned government agencies,” Gatchalian said.
“Sometimes, it is better to be alarmed than be sorry especially on preventing the spread of a deadly virus that has no known cure like ebola,” Gatchalian said.
Ebola, which first emerged in 1976 in two parallel outbreaks, is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, including bats. The virus spreads among humans via bodily fluids and has reportedly killed 56 percent of those it has infected in the current outbreak.
The World Health Organization warned that Ebola was introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
It added that 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 in Africa.
West African countries like Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are struggling to contain an epidemic that has infected some 1,200 people in the region.
Liberia alone has registered 129 deaths from Ebola, which causes severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea and, in the worst cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding. (Monica Cantilero)