Sudanese outbreak of Rift Valley Fever leads UN agency to send animal expert
At least 84 deaths in Sudan have been attributed to RVF and the number of infected people is also on the rise, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), which has tracked the outbreak to three states on the eastern side of the African country: White Nile, Sinnar and Gezira.
The animal health expert being dispatched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization will work with the Sudanese Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, FAO said in a press release issued today from its headquarters in Rome.
Transmitted by mosquitoes, RVF is a dangerous disease that affects both livestock – including sheep, goats, cattle and camels – and humans, but is usually well-established in animal populations by the time the first human cases are observed.
Humans become infected through mosquito bites or direct contact with infected material and liquids such as animal blood during slaughtering, while the uncooked milk of infected animals can also pose a risk. No cases of human-to-human transmission have ever been reported.
While some infected people experience no detectable symptoms, others develop flu-like fever, muscle pain, headaches, joint pain, vomiting, loss of appetite and sensitivity to light. In more severe cases patients can also experience lesions in their eyes, neurological problems, liver impairment and haemorrhagic fever symptoms including widespread bleeding.
Joseph Domenech, FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said the source of RVF within the local animal population needs to be identified and control measures introduced to reduce the public health risk, avoid further spread of the disease and limit the impact on the livelihood of local farmers.
The focus on locating infected animals and herds will be to try to disrupt the transmission cycle of the RVF virus by controlling the movement of livestock, using insecticide to treat animals and the environment and taking precautionary measures during any slaughtering of animals or handling of carcasses.
Mr. Domenech said targeted vaccination campaigns may help to protect uninfected ruminant animals in high-risk areas such as wetlands but will not work with already infected herds and areas.
“Vaccination of infected herds arrives too late for controlling the disease and must be avoided as it may aggravate the situation,” he said. “The repeated use of needles and other equipment during vaccination campaigns could actually help to spread the disease from infected to healthy animals.”