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Livestock Health, Management and Production ›High Impact Diseases › Vector-borne Diseases › Rift
Valley fever
Rift Valley fever
Author: Prof. JAW Coetzer
Adapted from: Swanepoel, R. & Coetzer, J.A.W. 2004. Rift Valley fever, in: Infectious diseases of livestock,
edited by Coetzer, J.A.W. & Tustin, R.C. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa, 2: 1037-1070.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
The economic losses associated with epidemics of Rift Valley fever are considerable, and include
inter alia mortality and abortion particularly in sheep and goats, international trade bans, and the costs
involved in the production, distribution and administration of vaccines. When mortalities occur among
valuable species of wildlife, the cost can be very high and the concomitant ban on hunting and
translocation of wild animals can have a devastating effect on the hunting industry and the sale of wild
Rift Valley fever is a disease that must be reported to the World Organization for Animal Health by the
veterinary authorities of member countries. On the strength of the zoonotic potential of Rift Valley
fever virus and the economic losses associated with livestock and wildlife morbidity and mortality,
knowledge of outbreaks in countries will inevitably lead embargoes on the free international trade of
animals and animal products. Taken together with the known and threatening spread of this vectorborne pathogen beyond its traditional endemic boundaries, and the view that it may potentially be
employed as a bioweapon agent, regulatory authorities usually apply strict import control measures
for imports from countries experiencing outbreaks of the disease. This was amply demonstrated
during 2000-2001 when trade embargos were imposed by Saudi Arabia and Yemen on animals and
animal products from countries in the Horn of Africa. Similarly, the 2010 outbreak in South Africa
prompted the regulatory authorities of several countries to ban the import of South African meat and
live animals including livestock and wildlife from that country. The decision was based on the risk that
viraemic animals may be sacrificed or hunted, which could pose a health risk to persons slaughtering
such an animal.
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