The United Arab Emirates has banned the import of livestock from South Africa in the wake of an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever.
In a media statement the UAE’s ministry of the environment announced bans on the import of all types of livestock from South African – including sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, camels, and gazelles – as well as imports of their “non-heat-treated by-products”.
Thermally or heat-treated products have not been banned.
The ban comes in the wake of South Africa informing the World Organisation for Animal Health earlier in the month of an outbreak of the fever, which can cause disease, death and abortion in livestock.
On May 16, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that the fever had been confirmed in sheep on one farm in Jacobsdal area of the Free State. The outbreak was spread by mosquitoes.
It advised farmers to vaccinate their herds and contact their local state veterinarians.
“The reoccurrence of Rift Valley Fever is due to increased rainfall, which in turn causes an increase in mosquitoes,” it said. “As this outbreak occurred in the beginning of the winter season, it will probably be an isolated incident as the cold weather will result in a decrease in the number of mosquitoes and therefore decrease the risk of the disease spreading.”
The department said that farmers would need to be extra vigilant at the start of the summer season, when mosquitoes usually start to become active.
“This outbreak provides us with a useful warning that all cattle, sheep and goats have to be vaccinated to ensure that the level of immunity in the herds is high when the next summer season starts and the risk increases.”
The fever can spread from animals to humans if they come into contact with the blood and other body fluids of an infected animal or an aborted foetus. “Care should be taken when handling possibly infected animals or carcasses of animals that have died of the disease,” said the department.
People who believe they have become infected must consult a doctor.
According to the World Health Organisation, there is some evidence that humans may become infected with RVF by ingesting the unpasteurised or uncooked milk of infected animals. In addition humans can become infected via the bites of mosquitoes and some blood-feeding flies.
The WHO states that while most cases in humans are confined to symptoms of flu-like fever, muscle pain, joint pain and headaches, a small percentage of those infected develop a far more serious form of the disease which can be fatal. — Fin 24