Madagascar: UN help sought for outbreak of Rift Valley Fever

Madagascar: UN help sought for outbreak of Rift Valley Fever

Health and agriculture ministry officials in Madagascar have asked two United Nations agencies for assistance as they fight a deadly outbreak of the viral haemorrhagic disease known as Rift Valley Fever (RVF).

Seventeen people are suspected to have died from the virus outbreak across five regions of the Indian Ocean island nation, according to local authorities, and a total of 418 cases are suspected this year, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. Laboratory tests by scientists have also confirmed at least 59 cases of human infection.

Officials in Madagascar have asked the WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to undertake a joint mission to the country to support their efforts to contain the outbreak.

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.