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Media trained as possible outbreak of livestock diseases expected during El Nino rains

Veterinarians have warned of a possible outbreak of livestock disease that might be triggered by the anticipated El Nino rains.

According to experts, the torrential rains occasioned by floods create a conducive environment for outbreaks of waterborne and vector borne diseases that may affect livestock in waterlogged areas.

Deputy Director, Veterinary Services Jane Njuguna says that the government has put in place measures to mitigate the effects of the above normal rains and was well prepared for any eventualities.

Speaking during a media training organized by Food Authority Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on Rift Valley Fever (RVF), Ms. Njuguna confirmed that at least two million doses of RVF vaccines were set aside for possible interventions at the Strategic Reserve based in the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI).

RVF is a vector borne disease spread by mosquitoes. Symptoms in livestock include mass abortion and death of young livestock. In humans the symptoms include flu-like illnesses. It is driven by climatic changes such as extreme weather that increases in frequency.

She  said the team was already in the field for outreach programs to create awareness to members of the public of the impending threat and had intensified disease surveillance operations in the risk prone counties.

“Some of the targeted counties including Isiolo where we have embarked on early vaccination on RVF in case of disease outbreaks. The government is prepared and there is no crisis,” the Deputy Director said.

Cattle grazing..

Dr. Joseph Njuguna project manager of  an FAO project dubbed FAO project dubbed “Supporting vulnerable communities anticipate and mitigate the impact of potential El-Niño induce floods in Kenya’ said they are working with communities in four counties of Tana River, Kilifi, Homabay and Migori  in readiness for any possible impacts caused by El Nino rains..

He expressed fears that the rains might cause flooding and increased chances of outbreak of diseases for both human and livestock adding that the media training was to equip the media fraternity with a technical background.

“First, we make them aware about the possible negative impacts of the El- Nino so that they will also be able to inform or make the communities aware, sensitize them about it  how they can prepare themselves for the possible negative impacts”, he said

Besides creating awareness and sensitization of the El Nino and the exercise entailed provision of agriculture inputs targeting communities in floods prone areas through provision of certified seeds to embark on their agricultural activities immediately once the floods recede.

 

“We are also supporting government through this project to carry out vaccination against RVF and this should actually be done before the actual outbreak comes. Prevention of RVF as part of the preparedness should actually happen before the actual outbreak.

He said plans to procure 400,000 doses of the RVF vaccines was underway so was resource mobilization initiatives to boost more funding to increase the dosages.

Through the project, Dr. Njuguna however noted that the exercise might go beyond the four targeted counties and spread national wide to cover other regions.

“ Through collaboration with the  media, we should be able to reach a wider area, actually the national community and  the RVF  is in the class of diseases that we call zoonotic diseases and therefore important for all to see how the risk of an outbreak can be reduced”, he said .

Dr. Njuguna called on the public to report I to the nearest veterinary authorities if they happen to see symptoms of animal abortions but also warned the public not to also handle the herds or animals affected with bare hands but use protection

Dr. Matthew Muturi, an epidemiologist at the Zoonotic Disease Unit said people should avoid consuming uninspected meat or meat that is not from a slaughter house to avoid contracting zoonotic diseases.

He noted the need for public health education and awareness to curb the outbreaks. “The public should know how to control mosquito population by relocating to higher areas for those living in areas prone to floods.

Kenyans, he added should also avoid contacts with sick animals and also avoid consumption of un-inspected meat products.

“If you are assisting animals in giving birth, observe hygiene. There should be early notification of human and animal health workers. If animals are sick, report immediately to the nearest health centre,” he added.

Muturi said although   most of the high risk areas  RVF are in North Eastern and upper Eastern areas, all areas that have excessive flooding in the anticipated El nino rains and support high numbers of mosquitoes are at risk of RVF outbreaks.

The prone counties include Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Isiolo, Baringo, Murang’a, Kilifi, Nyandarua and Samburu.

The government he confirmed has put in place efforts to improve the capacity for the preparedness and response in the event of an outbreak and are working with the County governments in some of the prone areas to improve the capacity to prevent the disease.

The Kenya Meteorological department has warned of El Nino in the October-November-December short rains. According to experts, El Nino is a driver of disease outbreaks and there are two types of possible outbreaks during El Nino- waterborne and vector borne diseases.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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