Floods lead to disease outbreak in Kenya

Published: Thursday 15 February 2007

As the Rift Valley fever grips Kenya, at least 75 people have died and another 183 infected since the disease was first reported in November 2006. More than 500 livestock have so far died from the disease and the outbreak has forced the closure of livestock markets in the North Eastern Province.

The disease has greatly affected the economy of the region, which is entirely dependent on livestock. Of late, the government has initiated a vaccination campaign to inoculate more than two million cattle, goats, sheep and camels in the affected areas over the next three weeks. "It would take more than a month to determine the safety of animal products in the area even when the disease is brought under control," said Joseph Musaa, the director of veterinary services.

Experts blame the outbreak on the relentless rains in recent months, causing floods and creating breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito, which spread the virus of Rift Valley fever from infected livestock to humans. The North Eastern Province, inhabited by nomadic pastoralists, was hit by devastating floods over the last three months of 2006. The disease was first identified in Kenya in 1931. One of its first symptoms is spontaneous abortions in sheep, goats and cattle.

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