Rift valley fever is an acute fever causing viral disease most commonly observed in domesticated animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels, with the ability to infect and cause illness in humans.
Recently, nomadic stockbreeders from Niger and neighbouring countries have participated in the Cure Salée festival, a major annual mass gathering event that happened between September 23 and 25, 2016.
During this festival, herds are brought to graze on the salty pastures ahead of the dry season. About two million cattle and even more small ruminants were part of the event. The RVF raging in Niger could have broken out as a result of the festival.
And there is a probability that the virus is already in the country as we speak, as the World Health Organisation has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of RVF in Niger Republic.
States like Sokoto, Katsina and Kano shares boundaries with Niger Republic, meaning that people in those areas have a high risk of been infected with RVF.
Based on the 2006 population census in Nigeria, Kano State has a population of 9,383, 682 people; Katsina State is next with 5,792,578 people and Sokoto State has a total population of 3,696,999. This implies that about 18,873,259 people from the three states may be prone to RVF.
“PREVENT MOSQUITO BITE BY USING MOSQUITO NET, MOSQUITO REPELLENT AND WEARING PROTECTIVE CLOTHING”
Head of Clinical Service at Federal Medical Center, Lokoja, Kogi State, Dr. Jones Taiwo, told The Point that RVF has the tendency of spreading into Nigeria since we share boundaries with Niger Republic. He said the disease is a viral infection which can spread from people in Niger Republic to people in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Speaking on the preventive measures, he said, “The preventive measure is the basic personal hygiene that we did during the outbreak of Ebola disease, like washing of hands,this is the key thing people do for preventive purposes.”
Dr. Taiwo said government has to secure the boundaries and ensure that people coming into Nigeria from affected area are properly screened and those who tested positive should be quarantine.
“To prevent it from coming to Nigeria means people from the affected area should be prevented from coming to Nigeria. Alternatively, they should be screened and those who tested positive to the virus should be isolated. The best way is to isolate those carrying the virus from spreading it to others,” he concluded.
A medical doctor, who pleaded anonymity, said that the government has to create awareness as they did during the outbreak of Ebola disease and inform the people about RVF.
“For us to be able to conquer this disease, we must be prepared and united in fighting the disease like we did during the Ebola outbreak. There has to be proper and adequate information to enlighten Nigerians.”
A competent medical source, who craved anonymity, added that individuals must improve their personal hygiene by washing their hands regularly and bathing.
He encouraged the government to station medical experts at the boundaries towards Niger Republic, in order to screen people coming into Nigeria and immediately quarantine those that test positive.
“Government should ensure that medical experts are located at the boundaries of Nigeria and Niger Republic in order to screen those coming in. Those coming in through flights should also be screened and immediate separation of affected people from the public is a good way of reducing the spread,” he added.
He concluded by advising people living in the risk zones to use mosquito nets, since the disease can be transmitted to humans through bites of affected mosquito.
Medical Director of Stars Community Clinic in Ebute Meta and Ikorodu area in Lagos; Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, said the disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and that the prevention is the same with malaria fever.
“Eliminate malaria with insecticides and not allowing stagnant water around residential areas,” he opined. Lastly, prevention can also be done by avoiding mosquito bite by using mosquito nets. “Prevent mosquito bite by using mosquito net, mosquito repellent and wearing protective clothing,” he concluded.
Report from August 2 to September 22 showed that 64 human cases, resulting in 23 deaths have been reported in Tchintabaraden health district in Tahoua region of Niger Republic, and the area is mainly populated by nomadic stockbreeders.
Most of the cases are male with 62.5 per cent, and they work as farmers or animal breeders. In the affected area, an epizootic outbreak is also reported among livestock during the same duration, including deaths and abortions among cattle and small ruminants.
According to WHO report, human specimens tested at Institute Pasteur, Dakar, were positive for RVF on September 16. Among the six animal specimens tested, three were positive for RVF. And genetic sequence data is required to confirm or refute the endogenous origin of the outbreak.
Research has revealed that most common complication associated with RVF is the inflammation of the retina (a structure connecting the nerves of the eye to the brain). This means approximately is 1 to 10 per cent of affected patients may have permanent vision loss.
WHO recommended that the risk of a person becoming infected can be reduced by taking measures to decrease contact with blood, body fluids, or tissues of infected animals and protecting themselves against mosquitoes and other blood sucking insects.