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Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Kenya Tapering Off


Health authorities in Kenya say an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever that began last month appears to be tapering off. The outbreak has killed more than 100 people. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The ministry of health's senior deputy director of medical services, Shahnaaz Sharif, tells VOA that, although there is an increase in the number of cases of Rift Valley Fever being reported in different parts of Kenya, there are fewer and fewer recent infections.

"A case may have occurred let's say in December or January, but they are reported to us right now, this week. So, occasionally what happens is that the numbers increase, because communication has improved so they send us the report," said Sharif. "But the cases may have occurred in early January. According to our figures, the last [case] where we had onset of symptoms is 14th of January."

The outbreak of the virus first occurred in early December in Kenya's Northeastern Province, and has since spread to five other provinces.

Health official Sharif says there have been 402 reported cases of Rift Valley Fever, with 118 people dying from the virus.

Northeastern Province's medical services director, Omar Ahmed, tells VOA that his province has been hit the hardest. There are 357 cases in his area, with 100 reported deaths.

Ahmed explains the measures health authorities took to contain the outbreak in his area.

"We have employed around 40 staff to handle the situation, extra staff. We created isolation areas in the hospitals. We have also brought in the specific protective equipment and protective garments for the staff. We have done a lot of spraying of houses and sites where there is water," he said. "We have educated the community through all the media. We also banned the slaughter and consumption of [beef] animals in the province - cow, goat, sheep, and camel."

Rift Valley Fever is a virus that is transmitted from cattle to humans through mosquitoes. Major symptoms include fever, weakness, back pain, dizziness, vomiting, and weight loss. The condition is fatal in about five percent of the cases.

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