Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever virus, TEM. © Science Photo Library

Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that affects domestic animals, and it can be passed to humans through contact with the blood, body fluids or tissues  of infected animals, or bites of infected mosqitoes.

Most cases are uncomplicated and the symptoms are generally flu-like, that may include: 

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • anorexia
  • vomiting
  • nosebleeds

Few develop severe symptoms with complications including liver disease, excessive bleeding, retinal problems and inflammation of the brain. 

Key facts

Risk for people 

In uncomplicated cases, recovery is complete. However, severe cases may have a very slow recovery or even result in death.

Animal herdsmen, slaughterhouse employees, butchers, laboratory personnel and veterinarians are among the main risk groups in humans, as the disease is mainly contracted by handling blood and tissues of infected animals, whether dead or alive.

How it spreads

The virus can be transmitted to humans by some types of mosquitoes, but mostly through contact with body fluids, blood or tissues of infected animals.

Vaccination and treatment

There are currently no vaccines for humans. Animal vaccines exist, and vaccination especially of ruminants (hooved animals such as sheep and goats) has been shown to be the best method of preventing the disease in humans.

There is no other specific treatment for either humans or animals.

Protective measures

To avoid exposure to body fluids, blood or tissues of potentially infected animals, those working with animals or animal products should wear appropriate protective equipment (gloves, boots, face-sheild). Measures to protect against mosquito bites include the use of mosquito nets, which are better if they are treated with insecticide. It is also recommended to sleep in air-conditioned rooms, wear clothes that cover most of the body and use mosquito repellents.

Information campaigns are also a good form of prevention, such as the proper disposal of dead animals.

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