BAI confirms Philippines first Q fever case

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) has confirmed the country’s first case of Q fever disease from samples taken from goats imported from the United States.

The BAI announced yesterday that the blood samples collected from some goats imported by the government and a private entity were positive for Q fever – a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted to humans. 

Because of the confirmation, authorities culled all 94 imported goats held in two farms – one each in Pampanga and Marinduque – to prevent the spread of the disease. 

There is no confirmed human case in the country of Q fever, also known as query fever, yet.

Agriculture Asst. Sec. Arnel de Mesa said people infected with Q fever show flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and headaches.

Authorities assured the public that goat meat or chevon in the country remains safe for consumption as long as they are properly cooked. They also said that  goat milk must be pasteurized first before drinking. 

The BAI conducted a series of laboratory and confirmatory tests on blood samples from the suspected goats, which all yielded positive for Q fever. The results of the final confirmatory tests came out late Wednesday. 

Of the total imported goats, 66 were contracted by the BAI for its dispersal program to farmers. The remaining 28 were brought in by a private entity. 

The BAI allocated P10 million for the procurement of 66 Anglo-Nubian goats with the bidding process conducted in mid-October, weeks before Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. was appointed to head the agriculture department. 

Aside from the immediate depopulation of the goats, Tiu Laurel ordered the tracing of all potentially infected animals as well as the imposition of a temporary import ban on all goats from the US. 

Tiu Laurel also formed a team to investigate possible irregularities in the government’s importation and quarantine protocols. 

He likewise ordered the preventive suspension of some BAI officials involved in the procurement pending the results of the investigation. 

“This is a very serious matter. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the health of Filipinos is not compromised,” Tiu Laurel said yesterday. “It is imperative that we act immediately and decisively to eradicate this disease that poses serious threats to both animals and humans.”

The imported goats arrived in the country in January with the government- contracted goats being transferred to a state-run farm in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque in February – after a month of quarantine.

The World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) considers Q fever, which is caused by a bacteria known as Coxiella burnetii, as a “widespread disease” that can infect mammals, birds, reptiles and anthropods. 

It can also be transmitted to humans through the drinking of unpasteurized infected milk and contact with infected animals, including their excretion and body fluids, the WOAH added. — Bella Cariaso

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