EDITORIAL: Scale up efforts to tackle Rift Valley Fever outbreak

Mosquitoes control should be a high priority because it serves as the key vector in the spread of the disease. file photo | nmg 

The fresh outbreak of the deadly Rift Valley Fever (RVF) disease in North Eastern Kenya deserves urgent intervention by the State and medical authorities.

Five people and tens of livestock are reported to have died of the disease that was first reported early this month and there is every reason to move with speed and stop its spread.

This is because past experience has shown that the disease could have devastating effects on lives and livelihoods if allowed to spread. World Health Organisation records show that the last outbreak of RVF in Kenya occurred between November 2006 to March 2007 killing 234 people. The country also incurred billions of shillings in economic costs arising from trade restrictions, livestock deaths and mass vaccinations to tame the disease.

Kenya cannot afford another round of socio-economic turmoil caused by this disease and authorities must work hard to contain it. Most pastoral communities are yet to recover from the effects of a prolonged drought last year that wiped out large portions of their herds and an attack of RVF would deal a devastating blow to their livelihood. With the recent unusually heavy rains and floods in most parts of the country, experts had warned of possible outbreaks of this disease and this has only come to pass.

The national and county governments must now focus on urgent measures that would help contain spread of the disease. Mosquitoes control should be a high priority because it serves as the key vector in the spread of the disease.

Authorities should also roll out emergency livestock vaccination campaigns as well as educate the public on the spread and management of the disease. Information on basics such as handling sick animals is critical to containing outbreaks such as this and save lives.

It is for this reason that Wajir authorities decision to ban the sale of meat is laudable but needs follow up measures to ensure the directive is enforced.

Going forward, authorities should improve on their surveillance and early warning systems to prevent a recurrence of the disease. All risk areas should be mapped and constantly watched for disease outbreaks.