Livestock producers in South Africa are being warned to take precautions after an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in the provinces of Free State and Northern Cape. According to a report from “Farm Radio Weekly,” the outbreak is being blamed on recent heavy rains in the area.
Rift Valley Fever is transmitted by mosquitoes. It causes abortion and death in young sheep, cattle, and goats.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), between 10 to 70 per cent of infected calves and up to 90 per cent of infected lambs will die, while mortality rates are usually less than 10 per cent among infected adult cows and 20 to 30 per cent among infected adult sheep. The OIE also reports that abortion rates can be as high as 85 per cent among cows and 100 per cent among sheep infected with Rift Valley Fever.
Rift Valley Fever was first described in the 1930s, when the disease hit sheep herds in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Subsequent outbreaks have affected sheep, goats, cattle, and camels, in addition to humans.
It can be transmitted to humans through contact with the blood, organs, or flesh of infected animals. Symptoms in humans include mild fever, headaches, and muscle pain.
Officials say the outbreak is under control, but they warn farmers to use gloves and protective clothing when they come into contact with animal blood, organs, or flesh – for example, during animal birthing or slaughter.
As of March 9, one person in South Africa had died from the outbreak. Five others tested positive for Rift Valley Fever. More than 1,000 livestock have died, “Farm Radio Weekly” reported.