Gulf Fumigates Against Rift Valley Fever as Death Toll Tops 60
Gulf countries were busy Wednesday fumigating marshes, farms and ports to combat any spread of Rift Valley Fever, which has killed more than 60 people in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates are spraying all planes that arrive from regions contaminated with the deadly mosquito-borne virus and have banned livestock imports from Djibouti, Emirati newspapers said.
"A spray campaign against mosquitoes will be launched throughout the country, particularly in border areas and at entry points," the reports said, adding that authorities were instigating strict inspections of all imported animal feeds.
In Bahrain, Health Minister Faisal al-Musawi said his ministry had launched a nationwide campaign to spray the island state's open farms and marshes with insecticide and monitor livestock.
"There is no danger from the disease in Bahrain and people need not worry," Musawi said, quoted in newspapers. The government has already banned meat imports from several African countries.
But the head of Kuwait's agricultural authority, Sultan Khalaf, told AFP no extra precautions had been taken in the emirate because it had banned sheep imports from Saudi Arabia in April due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
No cases of the fever had been registered, Khalaf said, adding that Kuwait did not currently import meat from African countries.
A ministerial delegation from Oman, which borders both Saudi Arabia and Yemen, has visited the contaminated region to monitor the situation and discuss with Yemeni officials measures adopted to combat the spread of the disease.
Omani newspapers have reported that the sultanate is free from the disease and that all necessary and precautionary measures have been taken.
The death toll from the fever in Saudi Arabia had risen Wednesday to 33 out of a total of 160 people who have been stricken with the disease. Another 31 people have died and 117 infected in Yemen's Red Sea region of Hodeida, 225 kilometers (140 miles) west of Sanaa.
Saudi King Fahd ordered on Sunday the destruction of all livestock carrying or suspected of carrying the deadly fever, and a Saudi official said the next day that Saudi Arabia had closed its borders with Yemen.
The fever was first reported on September 11 in the south of the kingdom near the border with Yemen.
It was the first time the disease, which affects domestic animals and can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, has been known to strike outside Africa.
Twenty Saudi planes are busy spraying insecticides in the infected zones on both sides of the Saudi-Yemeni border, while the two countries have met to establish joint technical committees.
South African experts arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to help fight the deadly fever, while Yemen said teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) arrived Monday in Sanaa.
Symptoms include hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis and eye problems, although human deaths from the disease are rare, according to experts.
Although it is possible to vaccinate animals against Rift Valley Fever, there is no vaccine for humans available on the market yet. And the WHO warned Monday that protective clothing was essential to prevent people catching the disease.
Mike Ryan, the WHO's coordinator for disease surveillance and response, told AFP early suspicions on the outbreak of the disease focused on infected cattle that may have been imported into Yemen from the Horn of Africa -- DUBAI (AFP)
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