Rift Valley fever is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes.
Kimberley - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has confirmed a case of Rift Valley fever on a farm in the Jacobsdal area, about 100km from Kimberley.

So far, it is the only farm reported to be affected and further investigations are being carried out by the local veterinary services.

Rift Valley fever is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes. It affects cattle, sheep and goats and causes abortions and deaths in especially young animals.

Humans can be infected with Rift Valley fever if they come into contact with the blood and other body fluids of an infected animal or an aborted foetus.

“Care should be taken when handling possibly infected animals or carcasses of animals that have died of the disease. Symptoms in humans are flu-like and some individuals can develop more serious complications. If a person suspects that they might have been infected with Rift Valley fever, they must consult a doctor,” the department said in a statement yesterday.

According to the department, the re-occurrence of Rift Valley fever is due to increased rainfall, which in turn causes an increase in mosquitoes.

“As this outbreak occurred in the beginning of the winter season, it will probably be an isolated incident as the cold weather will result in a decrease in the number of mosquitoes and therefore decrease the risk of the disease spreading.

“It must be noted that the risk will increase at the start of the summer season.

“This outbreak provides us with a useful warning that all cattle, sheep and goats have to be vaccinated to ensure that the level of immunity in the herds is high when the next summer season starts and the risk increases,” the department said.

Farmers are advised to vaccinate their animals against Rift Valley fever. Live vaccines can only be used in non-pregnant animals as the live vaccine can cause abortions.

Only dead (inactivated) vaccines must be used in pregnant animals.

The department has urged farmers to take care when vaccines are administered after outbreaks have been detected. Farmers should use a clean needle for each animal as the virus can be spread between animals if the animals are in the incubation period. Animals in the incubation period will have a virus infection but will not show symptoms of the disease yet.

Rift Valley fever is a notifiable animal disease, but not a controlled animal disease, meaning that there are no prescribed control measures.

The State Veterinary Services will give support and information to farmers in affected areas.

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