anthrax; catarrhal; bovine; disease; rabies; fever

Livestock production: Learn more about Rift Valley fever

Question: Please would you tell us more about called Rift Valley fever?

Rift Valley fever is caused by a virus and is transmitted to cattle, goats and sheep by mosquitoes.

The disease originated in the Rift Valley area of north Africa. In years when rainfall is good, the disease can move down with the mosquitos when they migrate to the south.

Sick animals show a high fever. They are listless, don’t eat and very quickly become weak. In some cases, the dung is bloody. Often, the animals die before the livestock owner sees any signs of disease.

Also read: Now is the time to look out for Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever is a zoonotic disease, which means that people could also be infected if they come into contact with it when an animal is sick, or when cutting open a carcass. In people it is influenza-like, and can occasionally have complications such as eye problems, liver damage and brain infections.

Also read: Safety and handling meat from diseased animals

If you find unexplained deaths or many spontaneous abortions, you have to contact an animal health technician or in your area or a veterinarian if it is at all possible. It is very important that they examine the dead animals and send samples away in order to identify the disease correctly.

There is no effective treatment because a virus causes the disease. The only way to control it is to vaccinate animals once a year, using an inactivated (dead) vaccine.

Also read: Play it safe – vaccinate your livestock

If you haven’t vaccinated your animals and the disease occurs in your area, you could try to prevent mosquitoes transmitting it by spraying the animals once a week with a dipping compound that contains the active substance deltamethrin.

Be aware of the disease and always wear protective gloves, glasses, a mask and clothing if you have to cut open an animal.

Also read: Rift Valley fever confirmed in South Africa

  • This article was written by Dr. Danie Odendaal and first appeared in Farming SA.

share this