The Botswana livestock industry and medical sector are hoping for the best and bracing for the worst following the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Ramotswa Village.
Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a viral fever that affects animals and can be passed to humans handling infected animals. Infection can cause severe disease in both animals and humans.
The outbreak of Rift Valley Fever at Seribe Crush in Ramotswa follows the outbreak of the disease in some areas of South Africa, where health authorities have so far reported 186 human cases, including 18 deaths from the disease.
The disease can also result in significant economic losses due to death and abortion among RVF-infected livestock.
Namibia has recently emerged from an outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF), which caused the agricultural sector revenue losses running into millions of dollars.
There are fears that should the Botswana outbreak get out of control, it may force trade restrictions, which would cripple the livestock industry and the Botswana Meat Commission.
The Department of Veterinary Services issued a press statement this week banning the movement of cattle, sheep and goats within, out and into Ramotswa.
Farmers and the general public have been urged to reduce the risk of spreading the disease by not transmitting livestock through Kgatleng, South East Districts and Goodhope Sub-District from other parts of the country. “Farmers and the general public are strongly advised to avoid handling or consuming any suspect or possibly contaminated material. Transporting imported vaccinated cattle, sheep and goats is allowed after dipping with a mosquito repellent,” states the press release.
According to the press statement, the disease was detected in aborted cattle fetuses and it was the first ever case of Rift Valley in Botswana. In animals it is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites.
The disease in animals is characterized by spontaneous abortion at all stages of pregnancy and high mortality in young animals.
In human beings, the disease may present itself with fever, muscle or joint pains and bleeding from the nose, mouth and skin and it can lead to death.
The husbandry system practiced in the outbreak area is the communal grazing system with unrestricted animal movement.
As part of the surveillance exercise, samples of blood have been taken for tests and farmers are urged to report any suspect case.
The disease was among the major alerts for foreigners going into South Africa for the World Cup. The World Health Organisation (WHO) was among a number of health organizations that issued warnings about Rift Valley Fever.
U.S. and U.K. health agencies also drew special attention to the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, urging World Cup travelers to take precautions.
The vast majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood or organs of infected animals. The virus can be transmitted to humans through the handling of animal tissue during slaughtering or butchering, assisting with animal births, conducting veterinary procedures, or from the disposal of carcasses or fetuses.
Certain occupational groups such as herders, farmers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians are therefore at higher risk of infection.
The virus infects humans through inoculation, for example, via a wound from an infected knife or through contact with broken skin, or through inhalation of aerosols produced during the slaughter of infected animals. The aerosol mode of transmission has also led to infection in laboratory workers.
There is some evidence that humans may also become infected with RVF by ingesting the unpasteurized or uncooked milk of infected animals. Human infections have also resulted from the bites of infected mosquitoes, most commonly the Aedes mosquito.
Transmission of RVF virus by hematophagous (blood-feeding) flies is also possible. To date, no human-to-human transmission of RVF has been documented, and no transmission of RVF to health care workers has been reported when standard infection control precautions have been put in place.