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Rift Valley fever kills at least 137 people in Kenya


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday February 5, 2007

Nairobi- At least 137 people, out of an infected 400 people, have died from viral fever, Rift Valley, which is transmitted through livestock, with a government health official saying the outbreak had passed its peak point. "The worst is over. But we will still get sporadic cases in areas prone to the disease," said Shahnaaz Sharif, the government's chief medical specialist.

The virus has not reached the capital Nairobi, but two travellers, from north Kenya, have died in the city's hospitals, Sharif said.

Sharif said more than 400 people have been infected with Rift Valley Fever, which has no vaccine for humans. The government had embarked on a livestock vaccination campaign but has been criticized for being unable to reach the targeted two million cattle.

Rift Valley fever broke out early December, with many of the country's meat-eaters refusing to go near a plate of roast beef, despite the government's insistence that the outbreak is under control.

The government has banned the slaughter and sale of meat from some of the worst affected areas, mostly the country's remote north-east near the Somali border where most residents are nomadic herdsmen.

Rift Valley Fever occurs mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The signs are flu-like symptoms which can lead to inflammation of the brain and haemorrhaging.

The disease strikes livestock mainly but can be passed to humans by mosquito bites or as a result of contact with blood or other body fluids. Livestock workers and vets are most at risk from the disease.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency