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Rift valley fever: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About rift valley fever

Rift valley fever is a mosquito borne disease primarily affecting domestic animals like sheep, goats and also has a capacity to affect humans. The causative organism is a virus belonging to the family Bunyaviridae. The disease may be transmitted to humans through the bite of mosquitoes.

Rift valley fever: Incidence, age and sex

Rift valley fever is commonly encountered in Africa. It occurs equally in both sexes. It has been encountered in epidemic proportions in certain areas of sub-saharan Africa.

Signs and symptoms of rift valley fever

The clinical signs and symptoms in humans include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, generalized weakness and lightheadedness. Few patients also complain of neck stiffness, vomiting and loss of appetite. The course of disease from person to person, and depends upon the health status of the affected individual. Few patients may suffer from severe form of disease which includes eye problems like blurred or decreased vision. Rarely, some patients may experience neurological manifestations like memory loss, mental confusion, vertigo, disorientation and coma. Haemorrhagic fever may be manifested in about 1% of patients which presents as bleeding from nose, gums, blood in stools.

Enzyme Linked Immunoassay is helpful in detecting IgM antibody for virus. Other tests such as virus propagation test and antigen detection test may also be considered.

Causes and prevention of rift valley fever

The causative organism of this disease is rift valley fever virus. Infected Aedes mosquito and other insects play a role as vector that transmit the disease to humans. Any direct or indirect contact of humans with infected blood or body tissue of diseased animal may lead to Rift Valley fever. Vaccination of animals helps in prevention of this disease. Public and social awareness about meat handling, using insect repellents and maintaining hygiene is also important.

Complications: Rift valley fever

Major complications of rift valley fever include loss of vision due to spread of infection to the eyes. Death may occur in rare cases, due to occurrence of haemorrhagic fever or meningo-encephalitis. Meningo-encephalitis refers to inflammatory condition of the brain tissues and its covering membranes.

Treatment: Rift valley fever

No specific treatment is required for the milder form of the disease. In fact, there is no specific and effective treatment for rift valley fever at present. However, anti-viral medication named Ribavirin has given positive results in animal studies. Only symptomatic treatment may yield positive outcome in most of the cases. The vaccine for rift valley fever is still under trial.