In a press release issued on 9th March, the East African Community secretariat urged partner states to take appropriate measures to prevent and respond to outbreaks of yellow fever and rift valley fever following heavy rains in some parts of the region.
“The recommendation follows reports of an outbreak of yellow fever in Kenya that has caused death of three people and information on outbreaks of rift valley fever (RVF) among livestock in EAC partner states,” reads the EAC Secretariat press release.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health reported on 5th March 2022 that the government has activated its health emergency response mechanisms following the death of three people attributed to an outbreak of yellow fever in Isiolo county, Eastern Kenya.
According to the report received by the EAC secretariat, the first case was detected on January 12th this year. Subsequently, 15 patients presented with yellow fever symptoms that include headache, fever, jaundice, muscle and joint pains.
According to Christophe Bazivamo, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of productive and social sectors, the heavy rainfalls and high temperatures have resulted in high numbers of mosquitos which transmit vector-borne diseases.
He urges EAC Partner States to report such outbreaks to the world health organization (WHO) and the international organization for animal health (OIE).
Christophe Bazivamo called for them to increase disease surveillance, control, and vaccination against yellow fever among their citizens.
The EAC secretariat recommends that people protect themselves and especially children against mosquito bites.
People are called to use mosquito nets, apply insect repellents and avoid outdoor activities at peak biting times of mosquitos, and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites.
In case of a rift valley fever outbreak, people should avoid consuming fresh blood, raw milk or animal tissue and products without thoroughly roasting them, says the EAC secretariat.
“People should practice hand hygiene, wear gloves and other appropriate individual protective equipment when handling sick animals or their tissues or when slaughtering animals.”
The EAC Secretariat further recommends that Partner States to intensify risk communication activities with preventive messages that enable the public to manage the risks at hand.
“Meteorology departments should continue to monitor and analyze the weather patterns and share information with other departments to plan and prepare for outbreaks of infectious diseases of public health concern,” adds the secretariat.
Yellow fever epidemics can occur when infected people introduce the virus into heavily populated areas, where a large number of people is not vaccinated.
After contracting the virus, patients develop symptoms and about 20% die within 7 to 10 days.
According to the EAC secretariat, yellow fever is prevented by an effective vaccine. Although there is no cure for yellow fever, a single dose of vaccine is sufficient to grant sustained immunity and life-long protection against the disease.
As for the rift valley fever (RVF), it affects and kills humans and animals. It is caused by a virus spread by mosquitoes and can be transmitted to individuals in close contact with contaminated blood, such as veterinarians, butchers, or animal handlers.
Although RVF often causes severe illness to animals, most people with RVF do not display any symptoms.
However, a small percentage (8-10%) of people with RVF develop severe symptoms, including eye disease, hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).