Rift Valley Fever :: Rift Valley Fever appears in decline in Kenya

The months-long outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in Kenya appears to be in decline after more than 500 suspected cases, 169 of them fatal, there and in Somalia, the United Nations health agency reported today.

In Somalia continued conflict is hampering control measures.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has been working with other UN agencies, Kenyan Government ministries and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners to develop key public health messages that have been disseminated in the local community in an effort to curb the viral haemorrhagic disease, which can cause serious economic losses in livestock, particularly sheep and cattle.

The latest outbreak began in north-eastern Kenya in November, and UN agencies have warned that climate change with successive droughts and floods, some of it human-caused, could increase the disease?s 5-15 year cyclical frequency. Outbreaks often follow major flooding, since heavy rains trigger a kind of wake-up call for the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

Since 1998, when flood-related RVF flared up in the Horn of Africa and encroached into the Arabian Peninsula, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been working to demarcate the areas in sub-Saharan Africa at greatest risk and pinpoint hot spots across East and West Africa to forecast where the next outbreaks will occur and put adequate response strategies in place.

People become infected either by being bitten by mosquitoes or through contact with the blood, other body fluids or organs of infected animals. Such contact may occur during the care or slaughtering of infected animals or possibly from the ingestion of raw milk. Wind can sometimes help carry the virus-bearing insects long distances.

Both WHO and FAO have been helping to draw up preparedness, communication, surveillance and response activities. The Kenyan Ministry of Health, with international aid, has distributed mosquito nets and taken steps to reduce animal-to-human transmission through animal husbandry and slaughter.

As of 30 January, 411 suspected human cases, including 121 deaths, a case-fatality rate of 29 per cent, have been reported in Kenya, and 100 suspected cases, including 48 deaths, in Somalia.

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