The eleventh meeting of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security (SCAFS) which has just concluded here has directed the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat to address the issue of Rift Valley Fever promptly.
SCAFS urged the EAC to urgently convene a meeting of the Technical Working Group on Transboundary Animal and Zoonotic Diseases (TADs), to address the issue of Rift Valley Fever outbreak, which has been reported in the region.
The meeting of the Sectoral Council was attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Charles Tizeba and Uganda's Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, among other delegates.
They directed the Secretariat to include emerging and re-emerging diseases as a permanent agenda item in the subsequent meetings of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security.
Tanzania is, however, not affected by the outbreak. At least 26 people in two north-eastern counties in Kenya are suspected of having contracted Rift Valley Fever (RVF). By 16 June, 2018, seven of these cases were confirmed and six of the people had died according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The outbreak was reported to World Health Organisation and the International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
In Rwanda, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources confirmed cases of RVF among cattle after samples were tested at the Rwanda Agriculture Board Laboratory. South Sudan reported an outbreak of RVF in March and is reported to be containing the situation.
The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat is closely monitoring the outbreaks and is urging the Partner States that are not yet affected by RVF to step up surveillance to detect any spread of the disease to their territories at an early stage and to inform the public about the risk and preventive measures.
The affected areas in Kenya include the counties of Wajir and Tana River on the border to Somalia and in Rwanda the districts of Kayonza, Kirehe and Ngoma. Kirehe borders Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, causing a risk of cross-border spread of RVF.
Rift Valley Fever is a virus disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitos. This year's heavy rainfall has resulted in widespread flooding in lowlying grasslands.
Flooding and standing water enabled a higher number of mosquito eggs than usual to hatch and thus increased the potential for RVF to spread among people and animals.
The RVF virus is endemic in the EAC region and has caused repeated outbreaks in the past. It affects primarily ruminant livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats and camels and also wildlife, such as buffalos.
In these animals, it causes abortions and deaths and significant economic loss. The RVF virus can also affect humans.
Most infections are mild, but some people fall severely ill and even die, with symptoms such as fever, weakness and bleeding from gums and mouth.
The majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood, body fluids or tissues of infected animals.
This can happen during slaughtering or butchering, while assisting with animal births, treating the animals and from contact with disposed carcasses or fetuses.
Human-to-human transmission of RVF has not been documente