Rift Valley fever
What is Rift Valley fever?
Rift Valley fever is an illness caused by a virus that affects both animals and humans.
Rift Valley fever virus
Risk to travellers
Risk is generally low for most travellers.
Higher risk activities include:
- Working on a farm, as a veterinarian, butcher, or any other job that puts you close to animals or animal blood.
- Drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk or eating unpasteurized milk products.
- Working in a hospital or laboratory with Rift Valley fever-infected patients.
Rift Valley fever can cause serious long-term problems such as loss of sight or neurological issues. Some patients develop haemorrhagic fever, which can lead to death.
In areas where Rift Valley fever occurs:
- Protect yourself from direct contact with animals, animal blood and mosquito and other insect bites.
- Avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products.
- If working in health care, practise standard precautions for infection control.
- There is no vaccine for Rift Valley fever.
There is no specific treatment although studies suggest some anti-viral medicines may help.
- Can take 3 to 12 days to appear.
- Usually include flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting. Some people also develop neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.
- Most infected people do not show any symptoms.
- Although rare, in more severe cases, Rift Valley fever can progress to one of three severe forms: Ocular, which may lead to permanent sight loss; meningoencephalitis, which may lead to neurological complications; or haemorrhagic fever, which may lead to death.
- Most humans get Rift Valley fever through contact with infected animals or animal blood.
- This can happen during slaughtering or butchering animals, helping with animal births or deaths (burials), veterinary jobs involving close contact with animals or blood, or general farming.
- Mosquitoes transmit the virus between animals and from animals to humans. Some types of blood-sucking flies may also transmit the virus.
- Although rare, humans can get Rift Valley fever by drinking unpasteurized milk and eating unpasteurized milk products from sick animals.
Where is Rift Valley fever a concern?
- Rift Valley fever occurs sporadically in almost all of Africa and part of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Countries reporting large outbreaks of Rift Valley fever include: Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
- A map of the areas where Rift Valley fever occurs is available on the the World Health Organization website.
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Avoid exposure to animals or animal blood
- Practise strict personal protective measures if working with animals in an abattoir, as a butcher, a vet, or farmer
- Avoid handling raw meat
- Protect yourself from mosquito and other insect bites.
- Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk and milk products
- Practise standard precautions of infection control in health care settings and laboratories
- Aide-memoire: standard precautions in health care, World Health Organization (WHO)
- Fact sheet: Rift Valley fever, (WHO)
- Rift Valley fever, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
- Rift Valley fever outbreaks, (WHO) - (Global Alert and Response Outbreak)