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

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.