EU warned over Rift Valley Fever

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

Rift Valley Fever can lead to demands for livestock culls
Rift Valley Fever can lead to demands for livestock culls

Related tags Africa Livestock

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised the European Union (EU) to launch a series of studies to help assess the risk of Rift Valley Fever being introduced to livestock and humans in north Africa and the Middle East, potentially threatening Europe.

Its recommendations come after the disease was noted spreading to a desert area in mid-northern Mauritania, sparking concerns it could leapfrog to the north African coast. An EFSA report recommends that the shift within Mauritania be assessed, improving “monitoring, surveillance and reporting of the disease”.

It also wants studies on Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Syria to assess movements of livestock into these countries and the presence of mosquitoes that can spread this disease.

This would include “detailed laboratory investigations”​, including studies of which animals mosquitoes like to bite and how likely carrier mosquitoes are likely to survive all year round. It noted that many of these insect species also lived in Europe. The analysis stressed that they could carry the disease into northern Europe, although Greece, Italy and Spain would be most at risk from a north Africa outbreak.D

Danger to human health

Rift Valley Fever can cause demands for livestock culls, because it often affects humans more than animals.

EFSA figures showed that there have 97 human cases in Mauritania in the past six years, with just four animal cases. There were 747 human cases in Sudan and only one animal case. But there were 155 animal cases in Yemen and no human cases. Other countries suffering outbreaks since 2006 include Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

The report, by EFSA’s panel on animal health and welfare (AHAW) found: “The southern Mediterranean region provides favourable climatic (rain and temperature) and environmental conditions for the presence of the… [mosquito carriers], especially in summer and autumn.”

It added the disease could be introduced into north Africa and the Middle East by infected animals moving from east Africa or through the Arabian peninsula. Thence, “the disease would potentially spread along the coastal areas and the Nile delta, due to the density of livestock and presence…of mosquitoes that can transmit the virus.”

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