Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever is a disease caused by a virus. It usually affects domesticated animals in sub-Saharan Africa, such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and camels. In these animals, it causes severe illness with fever, weakness, abortions and death, particularly among young animals. 

People can get infected if they come into contact with blood, body fluids or tissues of these animals – during slaughter or when consuming raw or undercooked animal products. You can also get infected when you look after sick animals or during veterinary procedures. Another way of infection is if you’re are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Rift Valley fever has an incubation period (time from infection to first symptoms) of two to six days. Some people have no symptoms, while others experience fever, general weakness, back pain and dizziness. Most people recover within two days to one week after symptoms start.

In rare cases, people can develop more severe symptoms, such as ocular (eye) disease with lesions in the eyes causing blurred vision. These lesions heal within three months but if they happen to be in the macula (the spot in the retina that enables detailed vision), they cause permanent vision loss in some people.

Another sever symptom of Rift Valley fever can be encephalitis – inflammation of the brain, which presents as headaches, coma or seizures. 

Lastly, there can also be haemorrhagic fever – patients have internal bleeding that may begin showing as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) as the liver is impaired. It’s followed by vomiting blood, bloody stool, bleeding from gums, skin, nose and injection sites. Those who develop these symptoms usually have about a 50 per cent chance of survival. 

There’s no specific cure for Rift Valley fever so supportive care is the only treatment available.

The best way to prevent getting infected is to not eat animal products and protect your skin from mosquitoes. A balanced vegan diet is not only healthy, it’s also safer when it comes to food-borne infections.If you work with animals that may be infected, always use protective equipment, such as gloves, boots, facemask or shield and appropriate clothing.