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Officials from Middle East and Africa meet to tackle Rift Valley fever

Cattle and people both can be infected with Rift Valley fever (© R Dolan)
Cattle and people both can be infected with Rift Valley fever
© R Dolan

As the Middle East increases livestock imports from Africa, officials are meeting in Dubai to develop a strategy to prevent the spread of Rift Valley fever, without banning livestock imports from the Horn of Africa. "We must avoid unnecessary disruptions in agricultural trade between East Africa and the Middle East," says Professor Ahmed El Sawalhy, director of the African Union's Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR). "Livestock products must be safe and action concerning disease outbreaks must be in line with the actual threat."

To guide their responses to the disease, officials from the Middle East and Africa are being encouraged to use the 'decision support tool'. Developed with assistance from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and FAO, the tool can be used to identify the sequence of events likely to occur as the risk of a disease outbreak increases. "This tool links early warning signs to control measures that can be implemented before animals or people begin falling ill," explains Jeffrey Mariner, an epidemiologist at ILRI. "The new tool could reduce the impact of Rift Valley fever, and maybe even prevent some local outbreaks, and has the potential to prevent the spread of RVF through trade."

An animal health certification model, suitable for pastoral livestock production, has also been developed by AU-IBAR, FAO and the Royal Veterinary College, London. Based on risk assessments, the model integrates animal health inspection and certification at the primary and secondary markets along the marketing chain before the final inspection and certification at the quarantine stations before export. "The good news is that the impact of RVF can be mitigated with early action during an outbreak," says Bernard Bett, an epidemiologist at ILRI, "but veterinary officers and decision-makers need to know what interventions to implement - and when - as the stages of an epidemic unfold."

Date published: June 2011

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