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Virus scare hits Southeast Asia

Rising cases of dengue fever, chikungunya, bird flu and ebola viruses were reported in several Southeast Asian countries in the past two months. Relax, there are no pandemic threats. Not yet, anyway.

Last month, 4,521 dengue cases and 13 dengue-related deaths were reported in Malaysia. These are alarming numbers. Last year Malaysia recorded 49,335 dengue cases and 112 dengue deaths – the worst in the nation’s history.

Aside from dengue fever, there is another virus that is spreading in several Malaysian states: chikungunya. According to a medical specialist, chikungunya is the latest in a long line of diseases carried by mosquitoes, which include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile encephalitis. These diseases are causing 1 million deaths worldwide every year.

In Singapore, dengue cases were down last year but chikungunya infections were up. Last month, 160 chikungunya cases were reported. This figure is high since only 11 chikungunya cases were registered in 2008. This was confirmed by the Ministry of Health, which already included chikungunya fever in its weekly infectious disease bulletin.

bird-flu
A Vietnamese poster warning about H5N1. From Flickr page of Joe Gatling

Vietnam confirmed that there are thirteen bird flu-hit provinces in the country. The virus was discovered in more than 4 communes in 23 districts of 13 provinces of Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ca Mau, Dien Bien, Hau Giang, Khanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Thai Nguyen and Thanh Hoa.

To contain the bird flu, Vietnam slaughtered over 52,000 poultry had been killed including 11,500 chickens and 21,000 ducks which had contracted the disease. It has also banned the transportation of poultry on motorbikes in its capital city to try stopping the spread of disease.

Five persons tested positive for the Ebola-Reston virus last month in the northern Philippines. The five individuals were from pig farms in Bulacan, Pangasinan and Valenzuela City, and a slaughterhouse in Pangasinan.

According to health experts, this is the first time the virus has been found outside monkeys. There are five Ebola virus subtypes: Zaire, Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Bundibugyo and Reston. The Ebola-Reston virus was first found in the Philippines in the late 1980s.

Filipino health officials claim there has been no evidence that Reston can cause significant illness in humans. But the transmission of the virus from pigs to humans has worried many experts. People are more exposed to pigs than monkeys. If the virus is not contained, more humans might be infected with the disease.

Journalist Dana Batnag quotes from a statement published by health authorities about the transmission of Ebola from pigs to humans:

Right now authorities do not know how the virus is transmitted from one pig to another, or from pigs to humans. This is the first time that the virus has been found in pigs. The concern stems from the fact that while the Reston strain here in the Philippines do not appear to be that harmful to humans, they still belong to that Ebola family of viruses “known to be highly pathogenic to humans.”

BUT: the humans who have been infected so far are all well, and have not reported any signs of illness, except one. It is not sure if the flu-like illness reported by one man in the past 12 months was caused by the Ebola Reston Virus. That man, also, does not remember having handled pigs that appeared to be sick (dovetails with the observation that pigs with Ebola may appear to be healthy)

The Philippines’ Department of Health has added an information page on its website about the dreaded Ebola-Reston virus. It has instructed the public on proper meat handling and preparation to avoid infections from pigs. The government will also slaughter 6,000 pigs to contain the spread of the virus.

Edwin Casimero is not convinced about the Ebola. Instead, he blames genetically modified corn for the poor health of pigs:

The bad news is an international body seems to be pressuring Filipino hog raisers and the government that the poor health of pigs have this mysterious Ebola Virus to blame. This is just another western medical crap meant to cover-up their greedy imperialist moves.

I’ve talked with a hog raiser, I’ve talked with a corn farmer. The corn farmer raises corn that is the primary component of hog feed. The corn being for hog feed raised in the past few years by many Filipino farmers is GENETICALLY MODIFIED corn, GM corn.

Your hogs are what they eat. Lately, what has changed is the content of their feed. Lately, in the past few years, more and more GMO corn has been getting into the pig feeds. And this pig feeds you depend on to raise healthy pigs. You know the GM corn is deadly to pests. Do you honestly think GM corn is healthy for your pigs?

Are you still going to believe in that fairy tale called this Ebola Virus?

So come on smart cookie hog raiser business men. Wake up and save your hogs from destruction. This witch hunt by the international agencies will bury your business. Save yourself. Change your hog feeds. Switch to the good old traditional feeds of 20 years ago or even older. The back yard organic pigs are not in any fear or danger of getting sick, the households know better and feed them good food, they can forage out in the yards.

It’s only the second month of the year but several alarming outbreaks have been reported already across Asia. This looks like a very interesting but scary year.

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