A few months before South Africa is supposed to host the FIFA World Cup, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever has infected at least 7 individuals, killing one.

According to the Deputy Minister of Health, a 45 year old patient was admitted to the hospital on February 26 with a presumptive diagnosis of Congo fever and died a day later. Testing confirmed that the offending virus was Rift Valley Fever a week ago.

The other six people infected have mild disease and are under observation and treatment.

The deputy minister of health says the disease poses no threat to the soccer event and is not considered a crisis.

Rift Valley Fever is mosquito-borne virus that is endemic in parts of Africa including South Africa. It primarily infects animals like sheep, cattle and goats and it can have an economic impact on a community due to the loss of livestock.

Humans get infected through contact with infected animal blood or organs. Butchering and slaughtering of animals is a primary cause of transmission to humans. Certain occupations are at a higher risk of getting Rift Valley Fever like farmers, herders and veterinarians.

It can also be transmitted to humans through mosquito bites and the bites of blood-sucking flies.

Most cases of Rift Valley Fever are mild and symptoms include fever, headaches and muscle pain. However, a small percentage of people can get serious disease which includes retinitis, encephalitis and a hemorrhagic fever. Fatalities happen in less than 1 percent of those infected.

The health department is recommending those farmers in Free State and Northern Cape use gloves and other protective gear when doing high risk activities like slaughtering.

I’d like to thank and acknowledge Fransa Burger for giving me a heads up on this outbreak.