Rift Valley Fever Death Toll in Saudi Arabia Rises to 30
The Saudi health ministry said Tuesday that the death toll from the mosquito-borne Rift Valley Fever had risen to 30 out of a total of 148 who have been stricken with the disease, including two in Riyadh.
From Sunday to Monday, three more people died of the disease, while two residents from Jizan, the region in the southwest of the kingdom most affected by the fever, were found contaminated in the Saudi capital, the ministry said.
The appearance of the two cases in Riyadh and four others in Asir, close to Jizan, does not mean that the disease has spread to these regions, a ministry statement added.
Saudi King Fahd ordered on Sunday the destruction of all livestock carrying or suspected of carrying the deadly fever.
The disease was first reported on September 11 in the south of the kingdom near the border with Yemen, where 30 people have also died in the Red Sea region of Hodeida, 225 kilometers (140 miles) west of Sanaa.
A Saudi official said Monday that Saudi Arabia had closed its borders with Yemen to prevent the spread of Rift Valley Fever, though Yemen's ambassador to Riyadh said he could not confirm the closure.
Saudi and Yemeni authorities are cooperating in their attempts to eradicate the fever: 20 Saudi planes sprayed 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 Sunday to help in the fight against the deadly fever, while Yemen said teams from the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) and the US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) arrived Monday in Sanaa.
It is the first time that the disease, which affects domestic animals and can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, has been known to strike outside Africa.
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.
The WHO on Monday warned that protective clothing was essential to prevent people catching the disease.
Mike Ryan, the WHO's coordinator for disease surveillance and response, told AFP said the experts would help ascertain the causes of the outbreak and advise the governments on tackling it.
Ryan said early suspicions focussed on infected cattle that may have been imported into Yemen from the Horn of Africa.
He gave high marks to Saudi Arabia and Yemen for being "very good and very transparent" in publicly acknowledging the emergency, taking quick steps to slaughter suspect cattle and calling in international help – RIYADH (AFP)
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