22 April 2010
Currently there are 140 laboratory confirmed human cases of Rift Valley fever in South Africa, and there have been 9 deaths to date. The majority of cases have had mild flu-like symptoms and have not developed complications. There is no vaccine for humans or specific treatment.
The risk of disease is to persons having direct contact with blood or tissues of infected animals and the majority of people affected have been persons working on farms, veterinary workers and slaughter-men. There is no human to human spread. Mosquitoes are important in transmission of the virus from animal to animal but not in transmission to humans in the South African outbreak as the mosquitoes involved prefer feeding on animals and don’t generally feed indoors.
The disease is generally seen on farms, and not in the cities other than related to the occasional informal slaughter of infected animals. The eating of well- cooked meat poses no risk, nor does the drinking of pasteurized milk.
It is likely that the number of animal cases and therefore human will decrease as the weather gets cooler. There is also an animal vaccination programme on farms not yet affected to protect livestock.
Visitors coming to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup are not at risk unless they handle infected carcasses on farms or handle raw meat from infected animals. It is highly unlikely that visitors would be involved in these activities. The formal meat supply is well controlled and affected animals are excluded from the food chain in abattoirs. There is no risk to visitors to Game Parks as the disease typically only affects ruminants such as sheep, cattle and goats.
South Africa is looking forward to extending a warm welcome to the country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and to reassure visitors that everything will be done to ensure their safety and health. Please go to our website nicd.ac.za for further information on the disease and the current outbreak.
For more information please contact Nombuso Shabalala on 011 386 6400 or 082 8864238