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FAO Issues Urgent Alert for Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Eastern Africa

FAO and IGAD have issued an alert to livestock farmers in Eastern Africa urging them to increase vigilance for Rift Valley fever (RVF).

FAO’s Global Animal Disease Information System and expert knowledge concluded that the risk of RVF occurrence in Eastern Africa is considered high both in animals and humans, due to favourable environmental conditions and through the movement of potentially infected animals underscoring the urgent need to ensure adequate preparedness for a potential outbreak of RVF.

Rift Valley Fever: An Acute Viral Threat to Livestock and Humans

Rift Valley fever is an acute vector-borne, viral, and zoonotic disease affecting sheep, goats, cattle, camels, buffaloes, and humans. It is primarily spread through mosquitoes and animal movement.

During the period of March−May 2023, heavy, prolonged, and widespread rains triggered severe floodings in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, western Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda, creating suitable environmental conditions for the disease’s amplification, abundance, and distribution. 

Environmental Factors Amplify RVF Risk

Periods of heavy rains and prolonged flooding increase the habitat suitability for vector populations, encouraging massive hatching of RVF-carrying mosquitoes (e.g., Aedes and Culex), thus influencing the risk of RVF emergence, transmission, and spread.

Areas at Greatest Risk of RVF

Extensive hotspots for RVF amplification are predicted in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti, while localized hotspots are predicted in Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda as shown in the figure below. 

The suitable conditions for the virus’s amplification are predicted to persist in the region due to favourable rainfall forecasts for June−August 2023.

Urgent Measures Required: Safeguarding Livestock and Public Health

Therefore, FAO and IGAD are advising the countries at risk to increase awareness of stakeholders, improve preparedness at national, subnational, and community levels to safeguard livestock, livelihoods, and public health, especially for exposed and vulnerable communities (farmers and pastoralists), and improve coordination with public health and environment services for managing the risk of RVF outbreaks.

  • Useful Links
  • Rift Valley fever action framework (FAO Animal Production and Health Guidelines, April 2022) https://www.fao.org/documents/card/ en?details=cb8653en%2f
  • Driving preparedness and anticipatory actions through innovation: A web−based Rift Valley fever Early Warning Decision Support Tool (September 2021) https://www.fao.org/3/cb5875en/ cb5875en.pdf
  • Real−time monitoring and forecasting of Rift Valley fever in Africa(FAO FCC Information Sheet 2019) www.fao.org/3/ca5511en/ca5511en.pdf
  • Rift Valley fever surveillance (FAO Manual 2018) www.fao.org/3/I8475EN/i8475en.pdf
  • Decision−support tool for prevention and control of Rift Valley fever epizootics in the Greater Horn of Africa. (ILRI and FAO. 2009) Version I. ILRI Manuals and Guides. no. 7. 28p. Nairobi (Kenya): ILRI. cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/22
  • Anyamba, et al. 2009. Prediction of a Rift Valley fever outbreak. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(3): 955−959. www.pnas.org/content/pnas/106/3/955. full.pdf
  • Recognizing Rift Valley fever (FAO Manual 2003) www.fao.org/3/y4611e/y4611e00.htm
  • Preparation of Rift Valley fever contingency plans (FAO Manual 2002) www.fao.org/3/Y4140E/Y4140E00.htm

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