14 October 2016, Brazzaville/Niamey – The World Health Organization has deployed a team of experts to Niger in an effort to strengthen the coordination of response and stop the spread of the rift valley fever (RVF) that is affecting people and livestock in a district in the north-western part of the country.
“The magnitude and potential spread of rift valley fever in livestock, and transmission to humans in Niger requires significant and robust preparedness and response with strong collaboration between human and animal health sectors in line with the One Health Approach. This outbreak potentially poses serious challenges in terms of human capacity, and the ensuing financial, operational and logistics requirements can be a threat to national and international health,” said Dr Socé Fall, the Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Health Emergency Programme in the African Region.
In late August 2016, the World Health Organization was notified of unexplained deaths among people along with deaths and abortions in livestock from Tchintabaraden health district in Tahoua Region, north-west of Niger and bordering Mali. The WHO Country Office took prompt action to provide technical, human resource and financial support towards coordination of the Government’s response to the outbreak. With technical support by WHO, a joint team from the ministries of Health and Livestock conducted an epidemiological investigation and took blood samples from human patients and animals. These were confirmed positive for RVF following tests performed at the Institute of Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal.
Since then a total of 112 suspected cases, a majority of whom are cattle breeders, have been reported with 29 deaths as of 13 October 2016. The vast majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood, body fluids or organs of infected animals. Human infections can also result from drinking unpasteurized or raw milk (milk that hasn’t been boiled) of infected animals and from bites of infected mosquitoes. No human-to-human transmission of RVF has been documented, and no transmission of RVF to health care workers or veterinarians has been reported.
The affected areas have limited accessibility due to security issues. Despite these challenges – and taking into consideration the seasonal movement of herdsmen with their livestock across borders to find fresh grazing pastures – WHO and partners are working with the Government of Niger to prevent spread to other provinces and neighbouring countries. They are also working with the Government of Mali to prevent cross-border transmission of the disease.
WHO is providing technical expertise and financial support, and is also engaging various partners to support the control efforts. Furthermore, the organization is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) partners on deployment of experts to the field to investigate the outbreak and coordinate and implement responses.