KENYA – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has developed a web-based Rift Valley fever (RVF) Early Warning Decision Support Tool (RVF DST) that is showing promising results in fighting the epizootic disease in Kenya.

FAO said in a statement that the public health burden and socioeconomic impact are underestimated due to uncoordinated surveillance systems in public health, livestock, wildlife and environmental sectors.

Furthermore, the East African region has faced recurrent disasters and outbreaks of diseases including cholera, Ebola, Marburg, measles and Rift Valley Fever in the past three years alone thus early detection and response to RVF outbreaks is key to preventing further pathogen spill-over to humans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that Rift Valley fever is a viral zoonosis that primarily affects animals but also has the capacity to infect humans specifically an infection can cause severe disease in both animals and humans.

Within the framework of the new International Health Regulations (2005), the forecasting and early detection of RVF outbreaks, together with a comprehensive assessment of the risk of diffusion to new areas, are essential to enabling the implementation of effective and timely control measures.

WHO points out that the majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood, bodily fluids, tissues or organs of infected animals, adding that the disease results in significant economic losses due to death and abortion among RVF-infected livestock.

WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) partnered for coordination on animal and human health and providing additional support to Niger’s outbreak response in 2016.

The World Health Organization further said RVF has been reported in Kenya in humans in Isiolo and Mandera counties and in animals in Isiolo, Mandera, Murang’a and Garissa counties, adding that Kenya had 32 human cases including 14 confirmed positive and 11 deaths as of February 4th 2021.

The decision-support tool launched by FAO will be used by Kenyan health experts for prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in concerted efforts to eliminate the mosquito-borne infectious disease in the Greater Horn of Africa and beyond.

FAO said that the Rift Valley fever Early Warning Decision Support Tool is used to build capacity for early warning and forecasting at country level and demonstrates how near real-time modelling, risk forecasting and digital innovation can enhance preparedness and anticipatory actions.

The United Nations agency explained that the decision-support tool integrates near real-time RVF risk maps with geospatial data, historical and current RVF disease events from EMPRES Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i) and expert knowledge on RVF eco-epidemiology.

East Africa Regional Manager for FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases Charles Bebay said the web tool provides expert knowledge to forecast outbreaks at country level and enhance preparedness and anticipatory actions.

Charles Bebay further reaffirmed FAO’s commitment to collaborating with the government in its One Health programmes at subnational levels, noting that Rift Valley Fever is a priority zoonotic disease in Kenya’s National Action Plan for Health Security.

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