19 March 2016

Uganda: Rwanda On High Alert After Rift Valley Fever Outbreak in Uganda

Rwanda is on high alert following a recent outbreak of the Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in neighbouring Uganda.

This follows foreign media reports of two deaths due to the fever that has currently been reported in the western town of Kabale in Uganda.

According to Nathan Mugume the Rwanda Ministry of Health public director of communication, "Our team is following up and monitoring the situation. We have alerted our health facilities, and all plans are in place, in any case of a spillover into Rwanda."

According to the WHO, the disease is an acute fever that is transmitted by mosquitoes during the rainy season and affects animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and buffaloes.

The symptoms are fever, general weakness, back pain, dizziness and weight loss as the illness begins to manifest.

The Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention's website states that, "Rift Valley fever (RVF) is an acute, fever-causing viral disease most commonly observed in domesticated animals (such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels), with the ability to infect and cause illness in humans. The disease is caused by RVF virus (RVFV), a member of the genus phlebovirus in the family bunyaviridae."

The site also said RVF virus has an incubation period of to to six days following infection and can cause several different disease syndromes. Most commonly, people with RVF have either no symptoms or a mild illness associated with fever and liver abnormalities. Typically, patients recover within two days to one week after onset of illness.

Although no human-to-human transmission of RVF has been demonstrated, there is still a theoretical risk of transmission of the virus from infected patients to healthcare workers through contact with infected blood or tissue.

Healthcare workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed RVF should implement standard precautions when handling specimen from patients.

The WHO classifies it as a viral haemorrhagic fever which is a general term for a severe illness, sometimes associated with bleeding.

During an outbreak of RVF, close contact with animals, particularly with their body fluids, either directly or via aerosols, has been identified as the most significant risk factor for RVF virus infection.

In the absence of specific treatment and an effective human vaccine, raising awareness of the risk factors of RVF infection as well as the protective measures individuals can be taken to prevent mosquito bites, is the only way to reduce human infection and deaths.


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