There are a few tropical diseases that affect both animals and humans. Rift Valley fever or RVF is a viral disease that is spread mainly through mosquito bites and because these pests take their blood meal wherever they can get it, both domesticated animals and humans can contract the disease from them.
Rift Valley fever is a phlebovirus and identified in the early 20th century, first in livestock in Africa. Typically, you will find this disease in southern and eastern Africa as well as Madagascar, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern areas. Epidemics of the disease typically occur when the environment or relationship between animals and humans are disrupted.
Other biting bugs and insects may also carry Rift Valley fever, especially if they bite an infected animal or human. They then can carry the viral disease and pass it along to their next meal ticket. Besides bites, humans may also transmit it to each other through bodily fluids like sharing needles, blood transfusions and even unprotected sex.
Symptoms of Rift Valley Fever
This disease can present itself in a variety of ways. Some people do not show any symptoms whatsoever. Others may present mild signs of the disease like fever and less noticeable liver problems along with backaches, weight loss, headaches and body weakness.
Most people who develop Rift Valley fever recover within a week or two with no lingering effects. However, there are a small percentage of people who get worse and they may experience hemorrhaging, seizures, eye damage, encephalitis, coma and even death.
Typical complications of the disease may be some vision loss and pregnant animals and women have been known to spontaneously abort their babies. Unfortunately, there is not much that could be done to stop it. More animals than humans die from Rift Valley fever.
Treatment of the Disease
Treatment of the disease typically consists of taking care of the symptoms. As it is viral based and not cure exists for viruses yet, there is no vaccination against it either. There are some anti-viral medications that may help though by slowing down or halting the progression of the disease.
The greatest risk for contracting Rift Valley fever is those people who wander outside after dark when the mosquitoes and other disease carrying bugs are most active. It is best to stay indoors from dusk to dawn to avoid them. Veterinarians, farm and dairy workers and even people who work in slaughter houses are at risk of contracting the disease due to close proximity with the animals.
If you plan to travel to any of the areas where Rift Valley fever has occurred, it is best to be prepared to take the proper precautions necessary to avoid possibly infected animals as well as mosquito and bug bites. Stick to air conditioned areas when possible and screened areas.
About six to eight weeks before leaving for your trip, check with a doctor that specializes in travel medicine to see what other preventative measures you should take during your travels. In addition, you may also have to catch up on your immunizations as an extra precaution against other illnesses while you are traveling. Avoiding Rift Valley fever in the first place is obviously the best defense against the disease.
Did you like this article? Then you'll really want to sign up for my newsletter. It's delivered several times a week and packed with science news and analysis. Subscribe Here.