Rift Valley fever: new insight, and hope for the future

Health control measures alone could be ineffective in the long-term fight against Rift Valley fever, which affects both humans and animals, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Researchers from a consortium including the University of Surrey, University of Cambridge and the International Livestock Research Institute investigated the impact of environmental factors on Rift Valley fever, a viral disease endemic to Africa that is found on animals and spread via biting mosquitoes. The threat of Rift Valley fever is on the rise and has recently been added to the World Health Organization priority list.

Unlike previous studies in this area, researchers examined the effect of seasonality and questioned how seasonally changing pools of water and air temperature impact on the spread of the fever. The spread of the disease increases if there is a large number of infected mosquitos, which is largely controlled by water levels and temperature.

Dr Gianni Lo Iacono, Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Surrey, said: “With increasing temperatures due to climate change, the patterns of vector-borne diseases such as Rift Valley Fever will change and potentially become more of a threat to the general population. Temporary methods such as using insecticides are useful to remove the short-term threats such diseases pose; however, the danger remains as the mosquito populations will recultivate and once again spread the disease.



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