Health officials in Saudi Arabia are playing down the danger of a Rift Valley disease outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected dozens.
The disease, which causes kidney failure, was detected in the Jizan province near the border with Yemen last week, officials said. Saudi health officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the disease has not become an epidemic, and that only 3 percent of those infected have died. They called on citizens not to panic. But doctors cautioned that once the symptoms start to show, immediate medical care should be sought. The symptoms, which resemble cases discovered in the Nile valley region, include high fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain and usually last for four or five days if treated.
Doctors said if untreated, Rift Valley can cause kidney failure and also affect the eye and lead to partial or complete blindness.
Doctors said the disease was transmitted by mosquito bites and infected animals but said that it could not be transmitted from one human being to another.
The spread of the disease in Jizan near the Yemen has promoted health officials in the Gulf to take preventive measures against the spread of the disease to their countries.
The United Arab Emirates has prevented the import of animals that are potential carriers of the disease and has ordered all municipalities to check for infected mosquitoes. Officials in Kuwait and Qatar said that preventive measures have been taken to protect citizens from the Rift Valley disease.
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