CONTROL OF FIRST RIFT VALLEY FEVER OUTBREAK OUTSIDE AFRICA IS UNDER WAY
WHO ASSISTS SAUDI ARABIA AND YEMEN
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are responding
to an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in Saudi Arabia (Jizan Province) and an outbreak
of acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome in Yemen, (Wadi Mawr, Al-Hudaydah Governorate), which
is suspected to be RVF.
The first cases of suspected viral haemorrhagic fever were reported in
the area on 10 and 11 September. Laboratory analysis at the United States' Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, confirmed a diagnosis of RVF in samples
from Saudi Arabia. To date, 134 human cases of an acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome,
including 31 deaths, have been reported in Yemen, while in Saudi Arabia there have been
160 suspected cases of RVF, including 33 human deaths.
WHO, in conjunction with its international partners in the field, is:
- providing expert advice to the governments concerned in disease confirmation, field
investigation and implementation of control measures to contain the spread of the disease,
- advising on how cases can be treated with the antiviral drug, ribavarin,
- disseminating health education messages, and
- putting in place measures to protect high risk groups, such as laboratory technicians
These are the first cases of Rift Valley Fever reported outside
traditionally affected areas in Africa. It is important to establish whether this is a new
introduction of the virus or whether, in fact, the pathogen has been present for some time
and only now has come to the attention of public health authorities. Ecological studies are being carried out to determine the factors that may
have triggered the outbreak.
High-level agreement between Saudi Arabia and Yemen to conduct a joint
investigation has ensured effective coordination of the international response to control
the disease on both sides of the border. Saudi Arabia and Yemen are sharing useful
information, including the investigation protocols, and there is good logistic
coordination across the border.
WHO Rift Valley Fever expert Dr Ray Arthur has played a key role
investigating and responding to previous RVF outbreaks. "I'm working with both
governments in the outbreak zone to facilitate coordination of the investigation and
implement control procedures across the border," he stated.
In Yemen, WHO and partners are assisting with the control of an acute
haemorrhagic fever syndrome (suspected to be Rift Valley Fever). Laboratory studies are
under way to confirm that the observed disease is in fact RVF. Earlier this week an
Epidemic Committee comprised of all relevant Government Ministries in Yemen and a team of
international experts, epidemiologists and laboratory technicians from WHO, the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States' NAMRU-3, a WHO
Collaborating Centre in Cairo, began implementation of a joint plan of action to curb the
spread of the outbreak.
Dr Arthur plans to arrive in Saudi Arabia today and was replaced
yesterday in Yemen by WHO epidemiologist Dr Douglas Klaucke, who will continue the advice
and coordination function of WHO.
In Saudi Arabia, WHO, CDC and specialists in entomology and ecological
studies from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in South Africaall partners in
the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Networkare providing direct assistance to the
Ministry of Health and the Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP).
Rift Valley Fever is a viral zoonosis that may cause severe disease in
both animals and humans leading to high morbidity and mortality. The disease was first
identified in Kenya's Rift Valley in 1930, and is fully described in WHO Fact Sheet N°
Further information: Please
contact Ms Melinda Henry, WHO Spokesperson's Office; Telephone: +41 22 791 2535, Fax: +41
22 791 4858, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr Mike Ryan,
Acting Coordinator, Integrated Surveillance and Response; Tel.: +41 22 791 3691; E-mail: email@example.com. All WHO press releases, fact sheets
(including No 207 on RVF) and features, as well as other
information on the subject, can be found on Internet on
the WHO web site: http://www.who.int