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Breeder wants his monkeys spared

Scientists trying to determine if Ebola has spread

April 18, 1996
Web posted at: 8:20 p.m. EDT

ALICE, Texas (CNN) -- A leading Philippines monkey breeder said his animals probably were the cause of a recent Ebola virus scare in the United States. But he pleaded for officials to spare the monkeys' lives.

Texas health officials Wednesday slaughtered 48 monkeys housed at the Texas Primate Center that may have been infected with the Ebola virus.

The monkeys were part of a March shipment from the Philippines that Alex Lina, owner of Ferlite Scientific Research, said "probably" came from his center.

"I'll be open to anything but don't kill the monkeys. They are my children. They are like babies to me," Lina told Reuters news service as he broke down in tears at his farm in Calamba, south of Manila.

Lina's farm supplies American and European researchers. In 1989, all monkeys on his farm were killed after an outbreak of the virus, known as the Ebola Reston strain.

Now he fears for the lives of the 1,600 monkeys currently at his farm.

Meanwhile, in the United States, scientists at an Army research center and elsewhere were testing plasma to determine if the virus at the Texas Primate Center had spread to monkeys housed in a separate building.

If they discover that it has spread, all 50 monkeys in the other building will be killed.

Late last week, it was determined that two monkeys imported from the Philippines and kept at the center were infected with Ebola Reston, a strain that is infectious to monkeys but not to humans. All of that original group of 50 monkeys have been killed.

However, at least two monkeys housed in the separate building now have turned up sick.

Electron microscope tests at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases indicate at least one of those monkeys has the Ebola Reston virus. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, however, have been unable to detect the virus in the sick monkeys.

The Ebola Reston virus is named for a 1989 outbreak in Reston, Virginia. In that outbreak -- basis for the best-selling novel "The Hot Zone" -- four workers were exposed to the virus, but none fell ill. The shipment of monkeys was destroyed.

A different strain of Ebola killed hundreds of people in Africa last year.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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