Early Warning System for Rift Valley Fever

Containment of the animal disease in Kenya

Rift Valley Fever (RVF) has been present in East Africa and the Middle East at irregular intervals since the 1930s. It is transmitted to animals by infected mosquitos. Although humans are rarely infected direct, they can be infected by eating meat from diseased animals.

The project seeks to locate the whereabouts of the pathogen (virus), identify risk areas promptly and if outbreaks occur to ensure that a programme of targeted and preventive inoculation is carried out by government agencies.

This requires information on the infected mosquitos, i.e. the carriers (vectors) of the virus. Staff from the local health authorities - Community Health Workers - help by sending information and potentially infected mosquitos to icipe, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi. The mosquitos are examined in the laboratory to see whether they have the RVF pathogen and this in turn makes it possible to identify the areas at risk. The information is fed into the National Emergency Plan.

If an animal becomes ill, farmers must respond in the right way. Local project managers and veterinary authorities disseminate information in order to prevent the spread to other animals as well as transmission to humans. Animals with the disease must be removed from the herd, humanely slaughtered and then burned. During this process, it is important to avoid any contact with the animal's blood.

Objectives

Control potential epidemics of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) more effectively in future by detecting them at an earlier stage. 

Sheep, goats and other domesticated animals often fall victim to the Rift Valley Fever transmitted by mosquito bites

Relevance

The disease is of particular concern to nomadic communities as it directly affects their herds, i.e. their main source of income. During the last RVF outbreak in Kenya in 2006/2007, some 1,100 humans were infected and 300 died. The loss in income from diseased animals was USD9 million.

Beneficiaries

A total of 113 people have benefited directly from the training; 70 of whom are Community Health Workers, 10 employees of the Department of Veterinary Services Kenya and 33 local decision makers in individual communities. Some 15,600 people would have been affected had there been an RVF epidemic and so have benefited indirectly from the early detection of the disease and better information on its prevention. In addition, the research institutes involved in the Project have access to improved data on Rift Valley Fever.

Activities 2016 - 2017

  • Monitor the mosquitoes that transmit the disease and train government Community Health Workers and other direct beneficiaries
  • Prevent RFT by analysing levels of knowledge of the disease within local populations using a KAP Study (Knowledge, Atittude and Practices) and then provide relevant training 
  • Improve further the government’s Action Plan and produce an Emergency Plan 

Achievements

A total of 500 local people took part in a KAP survey (Knowledge, Attitude and Practices) on Rift Valley Fever and its spread. The aim of the survey was to collect information on the knowledge of RVF within local communities. The survey was led by 10 local people who were given specialist training. The process of collecting data was completed in October 2014 and the information is currently being analysed.

In addition, 224 people from four communities in Ijara District attended a 3-day training course where they learned about RVF and how to prevent it. In addition, they were shown how to distinguish the RVF mosquitos from other mosquitos, e.g. mosquitos that transmit malaria. In addition, they learned how to set up mosquito traps

Handover strategy

The conditions that now exist mean that Biovision can successfully withdraw from the Project: The relevant measures have already been incorporated into the necessary structures and so the competent health authorities are able to carry out the activities themselves.  The Project is also serving as a demonstration project and should encourage local authorities and health institutions to integrate the activities into their long-term strategies and budgets.

In addition, the previous project phases have shown that the active inclusion of local people in the Project has been crucial. It has ensured that there is long-term support for self-help in the fight against Rift Valley Fever. Direct beneficiaries are highly motivated and want to help in the fight against RVF. As a result of this groundwork, the activities are now embedded locally for the longer term and this will ensure that they continue in future.