Rift Valley Fever death toll rises

2010-04-07 12:41

Six people have died from Rift Valley Fever in the Free State and

Northern Cape, while the total number of people infected has increased to 87,

the Health Department said on Wednesday.

Health spokesperson Charity Bhengu said the National Institute of

Communicable Disease (NICD) laboratory had confirmed 68 cases and four Rift

Valley Fever (RVF) deaths in the Free State.

Bhengu said: “Eleven cases were confirmed in the Northern Cape with

two deaths, while seven people had been infected in the Eastern Cape and one in

the North West.”

RVF is a viral disease that can cause severe disease in a low

proportion of infected humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes

outbreaks of abortion and deaths in young livestock such as sheep, goats and


Humans become infected from contact with infected tissues of

livestock and less frequently from mosquito bites.

Bhengu said the health department and the department of agriculture

supported by the South African Field Epidemiology and Training Programme and

NICD, continue to respond to outbreaks.

She said the department had decided to prioritise certain response

measures such as laboratory, epidemiology and surveillance interventions for

diagnosis, case finding and investigations.

It would also focus on health promotion interventions,

environmental health measures and managing confirmed cases.

Bhengu said direct contact with RVF infected livestock or links to

farms with confirmed animal cases of RVF remained the main risk factor for human

infection. Humans who had been infected were farmers, veterinarians and farm


The department said additional suspected cases were being


Affected livestock and farms were initially clustered within the

Free State’s Lejweleputswa District and Bultfontein area with the first

confirmed human case on February 13 this year.

Since then the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Northern Cape and North West

provinces had reported RVF among animals.

The disease occurs throughout Africa and Madagascar when

exceptionally heavy rains favour the breeding of mosquitos.

Bhengu said key symptoms of the sickness in humans were the sudden

onset of flu-like fever and/or muscle pain.

Some patients develop neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, loss of

appetite and vomiting.

In severe cases, patients could get vision disturbances, intense

headaches, loss of memory, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation,

convulsions and lethargy.

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