THE number of people diagnosed with Rift Valley Fever in South Africa has risen to 42, while the disease was still spreading among livestock, the Health Department said yesterday.
Department spokesperson Charity Bhengu said the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) had reported 42 laboratory confirmed human cases of RVF.
The department said of the 42 people infected with RVF, 37 cases were in Free State, three in Eastern Cape and two in Northern Cape. Two people had died in Free State since RVF broke out in the province last month.
Bhengu said direct contact with RVF-infected livestock or links to farms with confirmed animal cases of RVF remained the main risk factor for the infection of humans.
People infected included farmers, veterinarians, farmworkers and their family members.
Bhengu said RVF was continuing to spread "far and wide" among livestock, affecting sheep, goats and cattle on farms in Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng.
The NICD also confirmed that animal cases had been found in North West.
Bhengu said although affected farms were primarily clustered within Free State, initially in the Lejweleputswa district (northern Free State area) and the Bultfontein area, animal cases had been confirmed in all Free State districts and spilt over into Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng.
RVF is a viral disease that can cause severe disease in a low proportion of infected humans.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes outbreaks of abortion and deaths of young livestock in sheep, goats and cattle.
Humans become infected from contact with infected tissues of livestock and from mosquito bites.
The disease occurs throughout Africa and Madagascar when exceptionally heavy rains favour the breeding of the mosquito vectors.
The incubation period in humans for RVF varies from two to six days and symptoms may include the sudden onset of flu-like fever or muscle pain, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, loss of appetite or vomiting. - Sapa