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An increased risk of observing Rift Valley fever in West Africa

Issued on 27/10/2003 through the EMPRES mailing list.

As previously announced in the latest Early warning message sent by the EMPRES group on the 26th September 2003, there is an increased risk of observing Rift Valley fever (RVF) following above-average rainfall recorded throughout most of the sub-region during the 2003 rainy season. FVR viral circulation was detected in Mauritania through the sentinel herd surveillance system established in potential high risk areas of disease occurrence and disease investigations are being carried out in order to find out whether clinical cases are also developing.

RVF can occur at regional level in similar ecosystems facing the the same climatic constraints. For this reason, although it is difficult to establish precisely potential disease risk zones, it is important that countries from the sub-region strengthen their national active and passive disease surveillance systems in flooding areas, near rivers or dam as well as in areas affected by RVF in the past.

Veterinary Services should remind to field officers the main clinical, necropsic and anatomo-pathological signs of the disease in order to ensure the early detection and notification of the disease (see relevant publications below for more information).

In case of suspicion, a pluridisciplinary team should go to the field. The team should consist of veterinary services officers, epidemiologists, entomologists and physicians. Due to its zoonotic nature, a close collaboration with public health services is essential. If the suspicion is high, it is important to sensitise local population to the risk of contamination by handling infectious material (abortus and abortion products). The use of mosquito-nets and repellents should be considered to avoid mosquito's bites. Finally it is important to remind that Senegal, Mauritania and The Gambia already faced outbreaks of RVF in the past and represent a source of expertise in the epidemiology and the diagnosis of the disease.

This message is NOT a confirmation of the disease at regional level but simply aims at raising awareness of Veterinary Services and Human Health Services.

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