8 January 2007

Kenya: Nasa Gave Warning Over Deadly Fever

Nairobi — The deaths from Rift Valley fever could have been avoided if Kenya had heeded a warning by an American body that changing climatic conditions posed a risk.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), says the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) Goddard Space Flight centre, sounded the alarm way back in September, two months before the first case was reported in Garissa.

However, it is not clear whether the country received the warning or simply ignored it.

Since November, more than 47 human deaths have been reported in North Eastern Province.

The centre had warned that rising temperatures accompanied by heavy rains in Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean and Western Indian Ocean, could spark an outbreak of the disease.

The warning was contained in FAO's September edition of the Emergency Prevention Systems Magazine, EMPRESS WATCH.

The centre had been monitoring climate in East Africa for several years.

"The heavy rains being experienced were similar to what was observed in 1997/1998 when a major outbreak occurred in Tanzania, Somalia and Kenya," read the warning.

"The outbreak of Rift Valley Fever is another example that requires a quick and coordinated response," said FAO's New Crisis Management Centre manager Karin Schwabenbauer.

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