Amidst the backdrop of impending rains, livestock farmers are bracing for a potential livestock disease outbreak, raising concerns among veterinarians and epidemiologists.

This looming threat of disease is closely tied to the anticipated heavy rainfall, which could lead to flooding, providing an ideal environment for disease transmission, according to experts in the field.

In Kenya, businesses related to livestock and agriculture are particularly vulnerable to the potential outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a highly contagious disease that could have devastating consequences for both animal and human populations.

The key to averting this crisis lies in proactive measures, including the avoidance of contact with sick animals and the careful handling of meat products.

Jane Njuguna, the Deputy Director of Veterinary Services, has offered assurance to the public, emphasizing the government’s readiness to respond effectively to any challenges brought about by the impending rains.

To fortify this commitment, a substantial reserve of approximately two million doses of RVF vaccines is already in place at the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI).

Speaking on the sidelines of media training on reporting of RVF organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Dr Njuguna said alk mechanisms have been put in place to contain any possible outbreak.

Cows in the shed. Image:BDA.
Cows in the shed. Image:BDA.

She highlighted the proactive efforts being undertaken, including early vaccination campaigns in counties at higher risk, public awareness campaigns, and rigorous disease surveillance in vulnerable areas.

“We are also conducting outreach programmes and disseminating information to the public, all while closely monitoring disease-prone counties,” said Dr Njuguna.

Joseph Njuguna from the FAO said KEVEVAPI has sufficient vaccines to address needs that may arise during the outbreak.

FAO through funding from the government of Germany, they are conducting anticipatory action, a project that is preparing the communities to be ready in the event there is an outbreak of the disease.

“This project will prepare the communities in the event there is an outbreak,” said Dr Njuguna.

Dr Njuguna said it is important that the vaccination is conducted before the outbreak, citing the important role of prevention before the actual outbreak.

Matthew Muturi, an epidemiologist at the Zoonotic Disease Unit, stressed the importance of avoiding any contact or consumption of dead carcasses. He advised against consuming uninspected meat or meat from unregulated sources, highlighting the potential risk of contracting zoonotic diseases.

The Kenya Meteorological Department had issued an alert of El Nino conditions starting October and it would run all the way to December, however, the government this week announced that the El Nino phenomenon has been downgraded.

“When flooding occurs, mosquito populations surge. This creates a fertile ground for disease outbreaks,” Dr Muturi said.

RVF, a vector-borne disease transmitted by mosquitoes, presents various symptoms, from mass abortions and mortality in livestock to flu-like illnesses, blindness, hallucinations, and even coma in humans.