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Press Release 01/45

IRAQ AT RISK FROM RIFT VALLEY FEVER - FAO STARTS EMERGENCY PROJECT


Rome, 17 July - Rift Valley Fever is threatening livestock and even people in Iraq, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement issued today.

"The disease is usually found in Africa, but it has recently been diagnosed in the Middle East," said Roger Paskin, FAO Animal Health Officer. "Yemen and Saudi Arabia are currently infected, and there is a real danger that the virus could spread into Iraq. There is a need to monitor the situation very closely in order to control a possible outbreak."

Rift Valley Fever is a highly contagious disease spread mainly by mosquitoes and the movement of animals, it causes abortion and mortality in sheep, goat, cattle, buffaloes and camels. In humans, it can cause flu-like symptoms, which can sometimes lead to death.

All the animals at the western borders of Iraq with Saudi Arabia are at risk, FAO said. That is slightly more than four million sheep and goats in addition to about 200,000 cattle, FAO said as it started an emergency project in the country.

As a precautionary measure, the Government has sent four teams of veterinarians to the Saudi Arabian border zone. FAO will assist the government and will send a laboratory specialist as well as materials for blood sample collection and laboratory analysis. The Iraqi Veterinary Services currently lack the necessary laboratory supplies to carry out effective monitoring and diagnosis, according to FAO.

"By the end of the 6-month project, we expect the collection of around 14,000 blood samples from animals that give us a clear idea if the Rift Valley Fever virus has spread to Iraq or not. We strongly urge other countries in the region to take similar precautionary measures".

Rift Valley Fever was first identified in the Rift Valley of Kenya in the early 1930s.

*****

For more information please call: Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer, Tel: 39-06-5705 2232/3105, E-mail: erwin.northoff@fao.org

Audio clip (only in English)

Peter Roeder, FAO Animal Health Officer, explains how dangerous Rift Valley Fever is and why Iraq is at risk from the disease.
Duration: 3min04sec

In Realaudio (Instant play, 202Kb)
ftp://ext-ftp.fao.org/Radio/RealAudio/2001/Rift-Valley-Fever.ram

In mp3 (Broadcast quality, 1,470Kb to be downloaded)
ftp://ext-ftp.fao.org/Radio/MP3/2001/Rift-Valley-Fever.mp3

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If you can't download, please call the radio unit for a feed: tel: (39-06) 5705 6863 / 3749


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