Rift valley fever hits Uganda

The Ugandan government has set up a team of experts to carryout clinical and public health investigations of an outbreak of rift valley fever which has been reported in the south western district of Kabale.

Laboratory tests carried out at the Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed two samples positive of the infectious viral haemorrhagic fever while preliminary reports from the district further indicate that three new suspect cases have been identified awaiting test results of their blood samples.

The team of experts include officials from the Ministries of; Health; Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; Water and Environment; Uganda Wildlife Authority, World Health Organization, the US Center for Disease Control and Doctors without borders.

“The team is conducting surveillance programs in Kabale district, Rwanda and DRC borders. So far a total of 59 animal and 11 human samples have been collected for testing at the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the results will be available by Friday 18th this week,” Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Director General of Health Services in Uganda’s Ministry of Health told reporters in the Ugandan capital Kampala Tuesday.

She said that the team is also undertaking a risk assessment of human exposure from animals to determine the current prevalence of Rift Valley Fever infections among exposed asymptomatic individuals in the affected areas in Kabale district.

The team is also conducting trainings of health workers at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital on the disease and also developing a new triage protocol.

Rift Valley Fever is an acute, fever causing viral disease that affects domestic animals (such as cattle, sheep, goats, buffalos and camels) and humans. It is most commonly associated with mosquito-borne epidemics during years of unusually heavy rainfalls. A person suffering from Rift Valley Fever may have either no symptoms or a mild illness associated with fever and liver abnormalities. However, in some patients, the illness can progress to haemorrhagic fever, inflammation of the brain which can lead to headaches, coma or seizures or eye disease. The disease had never been reported in humans and animals in Uganda before this outbreak.