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Sudanese outbreak of Rift Valley Fever continues to grow – UN

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November 15, 2007 (UNITED NATIONS) — The number of confirmed cases and deaths from the outbreak in Sudan of the viral haemorrhagic disease known as Rift Valley Fever (RVF) continues to rise, the United Nations World Health Organization reports, but authorities are stepping up measures to try to contain its spread.

At least 329 cases of RVF have been confirmed as of yesterday in three states in eastern Sudan, WHO said in its latest update, up from 228 cases reported a week ago. Some 96 people have now died, an increase of 12 in the past seven days.

The outbreak has so far been confined largely to White Nile, Sinnar and Gezira states, and WHO said the cases that have been reported in Khartoum state, which surrounds the Sudanese capital, are not indigenous but were imported from one of the three affected states.

Gezira is witnessing the greatest increase in human cases, according to WHO, with most being reported in an area close to irrigation canals that is home to livestock and mosquitoes.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, RVF is a dangerous disease that affects both livestock – including sheep, goats, cattle and camels – and humans, but is usually well-established in animal populations by the time the first human cases are observed.

Humans become infected through mosquito bites or direct contact with infected material and liquids such as animal blood during slaughtering, while the uncooked milk of infected animals can also pose a risk. No cases of human-to-human transmission have ever been reported.

While some infected people experience no detectable symptoms, others develop flu-like fever, muscle pain, headaches, joint pain, vomiting, loss of appetite and sensitivity to light. In more severe cases patients can also experience lesions in their eyes, neurological problems, liver impairment and haemorrhagic fever symptoms including widespread bleeding.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has deployed a senior animal health expert to Sudan to assist local veterinary services with prevention and control measures in animals, while the WHO Country Office and the Sudanese Health Ministry have presented a joint response plan to international donors in Khartoum.

WHO said it is also anticipating that the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries will now implement an integrated control programme to try to limit the spread of RVF. This programme will include social mobilization activities to raise awareness among the local population about the health risks of the disease.

But the agency called for greater measures to be introduced, taking advantage of all media, including television and radio, and the support of community and religious leaders, to ensure that at-risk communities are more aware.

(UN News)

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