Home Blog What you don’t know about Rift Valley Fever (RVF)

What you don’t know about Rift Valley Fever (RVF)

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Certain occupational groups such as herders, farmers, and slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians are at higher risk of infection: Photo / Courtesy

Health alert has been going rounds following an outbreak of rift valley fever (RVF) in north eastern county, Wajir. Media reports indicate the death of four people.

Neighbouring counties of Mandera and Garissa have stepped up efforts from investigation to restricted movement to avoid the spread of the fever.

Viral disease
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RVF, according to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, is caused by a virus and is commonly witnessed in domestic animals including cattle, goats, sheep, and camels among others we keep for our daily livelihoods.

“The virus can be transmitted to humans through the handling of animal tissue during slaughtering or butchering, assisting with animal births, conducting veterinary procedures, or from the disposal of carcasses or fetuses. Certain occupational groups such as herders, farmers, and slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians are therefore at higher risk of infection”, describes World Health Organization.

First ever case

Veterinary officers from Kenya’s rift valley reported the first incidence of the fever-causing disease in 1931.

Animal-human contact, in most cases, increase the spread of the disease and in this regard, when the outbreak is reported, consumption of animal product is limited as a further preventive measures.

In 1977, over 600 people died following an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Egypt. Domestic animals imported from Sudan was suspected to have caused the epidemic. A similar outburst was also witnessed in West Africa, 10 years later.

For the animals, especially the young ones, the disease has signs such as fever, anorexia, feebleness, respiratory problems and diarrhoea.

Restricting movement

The best remedy is to vaccine the animals before the outbreak is observed. In case the outburst happens animals should have restricted movement to avoid further escalation of the virus and, at this point, experts say vaccination will worsen the situation.

Following the El Nino (heavy rains) and mass flooding in Kenya, a major outburst of the viral disease occurred in 1997. Furthermore, WHO indicate that the 2006 and 2007 RVF re-occurrence led to over 200 deaths.

During the heavy downpour neighbouring countries of Somalia and Tanzania were also affected by the disease. Between 2006 and 2007, 51 deaths and 109 deaths were reported in Somalia and Tanzania respectively.

Outside Africa

A worrying trend was also observed in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2000 where the disease was been reported. Spreading outside the African continent, there was global concern on how the fatal disease was spreading far and wide.

Interestingly, RVF has inactivated vaccine designed for human use particularly personnel who are at risk of the viral exposure – veterinary and laboratory officers.

Speaking to Daily Nation, Mandera Director for Veterinary Service, Claudio Sortum, he said that no incident has been reported and the situation is classified as medium risk adding that they have announced the closure of all slaughter houses in areas neighbouring the affected county of Wajir.

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