Protect your animals from Rift Valley Fever

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Eggs from mosquitos that cause the Rift Valley Fever can survive for several years under dry conditions. They then hatch and increase mosquito populations especially in low-lying areas that flood during heavy rains. Farmers must be aware and take preventive measures.

With the expected El Nino rains, farmers keeping livestock especially cattle, goat and sheep are advised to vaccinate their animals against Rift Valley Fever (RVF). There is a high likelihood of RVF disease in parts of the country beginning this month if El Nino rains fall as expected.

The disease not only affects livestock but also people and is caused by a type of virus called phlebovirus. In cattle, RVF is characterized by abortion in pregnant cows and liver complications in calves. Transmission of RVF is made by insects and mainly mosquitoes. People can also contract the disease when they get exposed to blood, body fluids or tissues of infected animals.

RVF mainly occurs in Africa and is therefore regarded as an African disease. It is common in East, West and Southern Africa. The disease epidemic occurs in cycles of between five and twenty years especially when there is heavy build up of mosquitoes which come after abnormally heavy rains.

Clinical signs

Incubation in calves may take 12-36 hours. In very severe infections in calves, death may occur in 2 days after the incubation without the animal showing any clinical signs.

• In severe cases, calves develop high fever and may vomit. Some nasal discharge may also be seen followed by prostration and mortality (death rates) may reach up to 70%.

• In mature animals, abortion in pregnant dairy cows is common.

There is high fever and in very serious cases, upto 70% mortality is experienced, erosion of the oral mucus membranes may be observed.

• People affected by the disease show a lack of appetite, nausea, severe headache, joint pains, dizziness and nose bleeding. Deaths are rare and affected people usually recover and develop lifetime immunity.

Preventive measures

• Prohibition of movement of suspected animals from affected areas can prevent transfer and incidence of new infections.

• Grazing of animals in mosquito infested areas should be avoided.

• Vaccination of animals with suitable vaccines should be done. Pregnant cows should be vaccinated with killed vaccines to avoid the risk of abortion while humans should be vaccinated with formalin killed tissue culture vaccine.

• In Kenya, the State Department of Livestock in collaboration with other stakeholders are currently preparing a national vaccination campaign to control infection in people and animals.

• The campaign involves provision of free vaccines and personnel. The public has been sensitized through the local electronic print mass media. They are encouraged to cooperate during the campaign to save livestock and protect the people.

Warning: Vaccination should only be done by qualified personnel to avoid human infection through handling of the vaccines or infected animals.

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