In a follow-up to a report earlier this week on the Rift Valley fever outbreak in West Africa, The Red Cross Society of Niger has quickly mobilized 60 volunteers to disseminate information and preventive messages in communities affected by the outbreak.

Niger (in red) Image/FireSky
Niger (in red)

According to the relief organization, the first cases emerged in the Tahoua region of Niger in late August and the disease has since spread to 28 villages from three communes (Tchintabaraden, Tassara and Abalak) bordering Mali and Algeria.

The Ministry of Health, which officially declared the outbreak on 20 September, says 23 people have died from the virus and 60 people have been infected. Nearly all of those infected are pastoralists. There are also reports of significant livestock deaths from the virus, particularly cattle, sheep and camels.

Rift Valley fever is a contagious disease spread through contact with infected blood or organs of animals, primarily ones that have been domesticated, or from bites of infected mosquitoes. People who become ill with the viral disease usually experience fever, general weakness, back pain and dizziness. With no specific treatment or effective human vaccine, Rift Valley fever can cause blindness and severe hemorrhaging.

“We are very concerned about the spread of the virus and potential effects of the disease, especially in Tahoua where people are already suffering from severe food shortages and malnutrition,” said Denis Baryanga, operations manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Niger.

The Red Cross Society of Niger is closely monitoring the outbreak, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) and is prepared to scale-up its relief efforts, with support from IFRC, to help curb the spread of the disease.

Rift Valley fever outbreaks can also have major societal impacts, including significant loss of livelihoods and trade.