Sixteen of 36 people struck down by Rift Valley Fever in Saudi Arabia have died, a Health Ministry spokesman said Sunday, in what appeared to be the first reported case of the virus outside Africa.
The fever was reported from September 11 in Jizan province which borders Yemen, the spokesman told the official Saudi Press Agency.
Medical samples sent to a laboratory in Atlanta confirmed a diagnosis of Rift Valley Fever, which affects domestic animals and can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.
According to the World Health Organization the fever has only been previously reported in Africa, particularly Kenya, through which the valley runs, and Somalia, which are just across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia.
The health spokesman said the disease had been transmitted by sheep, noting that a large number of the animals had died in recent days in Jizan, in the south of the kingdom.
He added that no cases had been reported in the last 48 hours.
Symptoms include hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis and eye problems, although human deaths from the disease are rare, according to experts.
On Saturday the daily al-Iqtissadiya said at least 30 people had died in Jizan and quoted medical sources saying it could be West Nile Fever, which has killed eight people in Israel recently, or the deadly Ebola virus.
Authorities have sprayed insecticides and banned transportation of sheep outside the province.
Health Minister Ossama Shobokshi went to Jizan on Saturday to inspect local hospitals which were put on emergency to treat the sick, officials said – RIYADH (AFP)
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