visitors NEED not be afraid

THE Department of Health has assured the public and foreign visitors that the spread of the Rift Valley Fever is on the decrease due to the cool conditions.

Prevailing conditions are are unfavourable for transmission of.

It also said the there was no threat of human-to-human spread of the disease.

The disease thrives in waterlogged places, which is favourable for the breeding of mosquitoes.

The mosquitos transmit the infection to animals, mostly on farms and in places where the informal slaughtering of animals takes place.

People can be either infected by a mosquito bite or by consuming products of an infected animal. The disease's symptoms are a mild fever and muscle pain.

Departmental spokesperson Charity Bhengu said those at risk are people working on farms and in abattoirs or doing veterinary work.

She said the department was working hard to ensure that South Africans were not exposed to the disease through food products.

"The formal meat supply is well controlled and affected animals are excluded from the food chain in abattoirs," Bhengu said.

There have been 183 reported cases of the disease and 17 deaths since February, mostly farms workers or those who had come in contact with infected animals.

Bhengu said they were working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in getting communities educated.

She said people were encouraged to vaccinate their livestock against infection and to avoid slaughtering infected livestock.

"There are 300 volunteers in Free State and 200 in Northern Cape who have been identified for training to intensify health education and health promotion to prevent further incidents of RVF," Bhengu said.

KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Chris Maxon said: "So far we have had no cases reported but it is matter of national notice."

The World Health Organisation has not imposed travelling restrictions on South Africa but is warning those planning to visit to be on the alert.

"South Africa is looking forward to extending a warm welcome to visitors for the 2010 Fifa World Cup and we want to reassure them that everything will be done to ensure their safety and health," Bhengu said.