Rift Valley fever: background and updates

Dr Mohamed Hassan

Dr Mohamed Hassan from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presents on Rift Valley fever from the perspective of a livestock importing country

The latter part of Day 1 and the opening session of Day 2 featured four presentations under the theme, Rift Valley fever: background and updates.

Dr Kariuki Njenga of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened with a presentation on the Rift Valley situation in various countries in Africa.

RVF in Africa

This was followed by a presentation on Rift Valley fever by Dr Mohamed Hassan from the Ministry of Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, highlighting various perspectives and concerns of livestock importing countries in the Middle East, and the disease control programs in place.

Rift Valley fever

In his other presentation under this theme, Dr Kariuki Njenga discussed the laboratory diagnosis of the Rift Valley fever virus and the use of vaccines as a control strategy during different Rift Valley fever situations, for example, during endemic periods with regular or sporadic outbreaks.

RVF Diagnosis and Vaccines

Finally, Dr Peter Ithondeka, the Director of Veterinary Services of Kenya, outlined some practical considerations in the control of Rift Valley fever. He underscored the importance of public awareness during outbreaks as this helps to avoid spreading fear and misinformation.

RVF considerations

New OIE publications available on import risk analysis for animals and animal products

OIE publications

During the question-and-answer session after Dr Jeffrey Mariner’s presentation on the role of risk analysis in the judgement of equivalence, Dr Jonathan Rushton of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London (RVC) noted that there is a need to identify the people involved in livestock trade so as to enable collection of data for risk management processes.

In response, Dr Gideon Brückner of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) informed the participants that the OIE has recently published two handbooks on import risk analysis for animals and animal products — Volume 1 on qualitative risk analysis and Volume 2 on quantitative risk assessment — and these handbooks clearly explain the risk assessment processes.

The publications are available from the OIE e-bookshop at http://www.oie.int/boutique.

Using the risk-based decision-support tool for control of Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever decision-support tool

The decision-support tool (DST) is a risk-based framework designed to guide decision-making and moderate responses by national veterinary authorities in the event of an outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF) in the Horn of Africa.

The tool was developed by 30 experts and decision-makers from across the Horn of Africa with technical assistance from researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other partners.

On Day 1 of the workshop, Dr Jeffrey Mariner, a veterinary epidemiologist at ILRI, gave a brief presentation on Rift Valley fever and risk-based decision making, and then led a practical session on the basic use of the DST, followed on Day 2 by a second session on the complete DST and more complex use of the tool.

Jeffrey Mariner

Dr Jeffrey Mariner introduces the decision-support tool with a presentation on Rift Valley fever and risk-based decision-making

In his presentation, Dr Mariner highlighted an ILRI-led epidemiological assessment of the response to the 2006-07 outbreak of RVF in Kenya, noting that indigenous knowledge of RVF among Somali pastoralists enabled the community to detect the initial signs of the disease well in advance of the official early warnings. Thus, indigenous knowledge can be useful to inform prevention and control strategies against future RVF outbreaks in the region.

In the first practical session on the use of the DST, participants worked in three breakout groups with key facilitation by Dr Bernard Bett, Dr James Wabacha and Dr Jeffrey Mariner. The participants first formulated the objective for using the DST, that is, the outcome to be prevented or mitigated. They also agreed on the regions, supply chain actors and markets to be covered.

In the second practical session, the three groups each built a timeline of events leading up to the outcome to be prevented. Each event represented a decision point for action, given the level of risk at that point. Next, they identified and listed categories of action to mitigate the risk at specific events indicating, as appropriate, the specific action to be taken and by whom.

RVF DST group work

Group work on the Rift Valley fever decision support tool: A section of a timeline of events in the evolution of an RVF outbreak

The practical exercise on the use of the DST brought to light the fact that there are many complex questions related to the prevention and control of RVF that need transparency and dialogue among stakeholders in order that they may be appropriately and adequately addressed.

The role of risk analysis in the OIE judgement of equivalence

Jeffrey Mariner

Jeffrey Mariner presenting on the role of risk analysis in the OIE judgement of equivalence

Following immediately after Dr Gideon Brückner’s presentation on the OIE judgement of equivalence was a related presentation by Dr Jeffrey Mariner, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on the role of risk analysis in the OIE judgement of equivalence.

Dr Mariner began with a general definition of ‘risk’ as the likelihood of occurrence of a hazard and the economic consequences. Because ‘zero risk’ does not exist, there is need to assess the relative level of risk against the desired benefits.

He then outlined the four main components of risk analysis:

  • hazard identification;
  • risk assessment;
  • risk management; and
  • risk communication

Reference was made to Chapter 2.1 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code which deals with the subject of import risk analysis. According to this chapter of the Code, the main aim of import risk analysis is to provide importing countries with an objective  method of assessing the disease risks associated with the importation of animals and animal products.

Transparency, trust and open communication are critical during assessment so that the exporting country is provided with clear reasons for imposition of import conditions or refusal to import.

The need for coordinated regional efforts was underscored, with the observation that regional problems will require regional solutions, even as the national veterinary authorities play their role in certification of livestock and livestock products.

OIE Judgement of Equivalence: Different paths to the same destination

Gideon Brückner

Dr Gideon Brückner presents on the OIE judgement of equivalence

The opening presentation on Day 1 of the Enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade workshop (EST workshop) was by Dr Gideon Brückner, President of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases. His presentation was entitled, The OIE judgement of equivalence.

Dr Brückner outlined the concept of equivalence as one of different roads or paths leading to the same destination. Thus, although livestock importing and exporting countries may use different tests or animal disease control measures, the end result should be an equivalent level of protection that is acceptable to both the importing and exporting countries.

It was noted that while livestock importing and exporting countries have certain obligations to meet, the exporting countries bear the burden of risk mitigation so timely and transparent communication is needed between importing and exporting countries so that both can agree on the appropriate level of protection.

Dr Brückner also gave an overview of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code and its use as a point of reference for animal health requirements for trade. The Code provides the minimum level of protection, based on risk. He noted that risk assessment, though not mandatory, may be done if a higher standard of protection is needed.

Image of cover slide - OIE judgement of equivalence

Workshop on enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade gets underway in Dubai

Jeffrey Mariner presenting at EST Workshop

Dr Jeffrey Mariner of ILRI gives an overview of the Rift Valley fever decision support tool at the 'Enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade' workshop. The tool is a risk-based framework to guide decision-making during prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in the Greater Horn of Africa.

Chief veterinary officers, exporters and importers of livestock, quarantine operators and livestock traders from countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East are meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates this week (13-16 June 2011) for a workshop on enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade.

In line with the overall goal of enhancing safety and stability in livestock trade between exporting countries in the Horn of Africa and importing countries in the Middle East, the meeting will:

  • outline the use of a decision support tool for the prevention and control of Rift Valley fever;
  • assemble approaches towards harmonized control of other trade-related transboundary animal diseases
  • define a way forward towards appropriate control of animal diseases
  • discuss animal welfare issues along the export-import livestock value chain; and
  • define mechanisms for better communication among partners along the value chain

Below are some related links to media coverage of this workshop:

Officials from Middle East and East Africa meet to tackle Rift Valley fever (New Agriculturist)

Amid soaring meat costs, officials from East Africa and Middle East seek plan to keep animal diseases from disrupting livestock trade (ILRI News blog)

Provisional agenda for workshop on enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade now available

We are pleased to present the provisional agenda for the workshop, Enhancing safe inter-regional livestock trade: Risk-based approaches to livestock certification and harmonized control of trade-related transboundary animal diseases.

Scheduled for 13-16 June 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the workshop will bring together chief veterinary officers from livestock exporting countries in the Greater Horn of Africa and importing countries in the Middle East; veterinary quarantine operators; livestock traders; representatives from chambers of commerce; and business and investment council members, among other key sector stakeholders.

The workshop is convened by the African Union – Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) which is the lead implementing agency, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Download the provisional agenda here.

[Edit update 10 June 2011: Please visit the agenda page to download the most recent version of the workshop agenda in English and Arabic]