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WHO Reports Hundreds of Human Cases of Rift Valley Fever in Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania

The World Health Organization says since the end of last year, there have been hundreds of human cases of Rift Valley Fever in East Africa.

Mosquitoes spread the disease, which primarily affects animals, including cattle, sheep, goats and camels. It often accompanies years of heavy rainfall and outbreaks occur most frequently around the New Year period.

The WHO has just released an update on the situation. From Geneva, spokesman Gregory Hartl told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua where cases of the disease are concentrated.

“We now have seen cases in three neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa: Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. The outbreak began, as far as we know, in Kenya, (then) spread to Somalia. And eventually also we started seeing cases in Tanzania and it is still ongoing in Tanzania,” he says.

Hartl has the latest figures on human cases. “We know that in Kenya there have been the most cases. There have been 684 cases recorded, with 155 deaths. In Somalia, there have been 114 cases, with 51 deaths. And in Tanzania, 264 cases, with 109 deaths. And remember, in Tanzania, the outbreak is continuing,” he says.

The WHO spokesman says there are some limited means of protection. He says, “Unfortunately, there is no human vaccine or antiviral (drug) treatments. So the only thing that really can be done is first of all try to prevent humans from contracting the disease. And secondly, one has to provide support of care afterwards and just give a person’s natural immune system the best chance possible of fighting the disease.

“Certainly the main thing people should do in order to prevent contracting Rift Valley Fever is to avoid contact with sick and apparently diseased animals. It’s when you eat the meat or the blood products basically, anything to do with the nerves of the diseased animals, that one can contract the disease. Now also, Rift valley Fever can be transmitted by mosquito, if a mosquito is carrying infected blood from a diseased animal to a human. So, obviously that sometimes is much more difficult to stop. Although, of course, one can take measures against mosquitoes,” he says.