Rift Valley Fever deaths up to 87

SIX people have died from Rift Valley Fever in the Free State and Northern Cape, while the total number of people infected has increased to 87, the Health Department said yesterday.

SIX people have died from Rift Valley Fever in the Free State and Northern Cape, while the total number of people infected has increased to 87, the Health Department said yesterday.

Health spokesperson Charity Bhengu said the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD) laboratory had confirmed 68 cases and four Rift Valley Fever (RVF) deaths in the Free State.

"Eleven cases were confirmed in Northern Cape, with two deaths, while seven people had been infected in Eastern Cape and one in North West."

RVF is a viral disease that primarily affect animals but can cause severe disease in a low proportion of infected humans.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes outbreaks of abortion and deaths in young livestock such as sheep, goats and cattle.

Humans become infected from contact with infected tissues of livestock and less frequently from mosquito bites.

Bhengu said the Health Department and Department of Agriculture, supported by the South African Field Epidemiology and Training Programme and NICD, continue to respond to outbreaks.

She said the department had decided to prioritise certain response measures, such as laboratory, epidemiology and surveillance interventions, for diagnosis, case finding and investigations.

It would also focus on health promotion interventions, environmental health measures and managing confirmed cases.

Bhengu said direct contact with RVF-infected livestock or links to farms with confirmed animal cases of RVF remained the main risk for human infection.

Humans who had been infected were farmers, veterinarians and farm workers.

The department said additional suspected cases were being tested.

Affected livestock and farms were initially clustered within the Free State's Lejweleputswa District and Bultfontein area with the first confirmed human case on February 13 this year. - Sapa

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