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Kenya mulls cattle vaccine as fever spreads

31 January 2007

KENYA - The Kenyan government said on Tuesday that its scientists have started manufacturing livestock vaccines for Rift Valley fever, which has killed at least 150 people and threatened the country's beef sector.

Livestock Minister Joseph Munyao said the vaccine, currently being delivered from South Africa and United States, would be manufactured locally to help in the vaccination of two million livestock across the nation.

The disease killed at least two people in the Rift Valley town of Kajiado over the weekend, health officials said, bringing the death toll to 150 since the fever outbreak was first reported in mid-December.

"The Kenya Veterinary Vaccine Production Institute has started manufacturing it this week, and am told that in seven days or so, we might have a few hundred thousand (vaccines) ready. It is fairly cheap," Munyao told a press conference here.

There are no vaccines for humans, but the health ministry has advised the public to eat inspected meat, avoid human-animal contact, bury or burn dead animals and observe basic hygiene.

The government has banned the slaughter of livestock and the broad majority of the public has boycotted eating it for fear of contracting the disease that has infected about 400 people, state-run Kenya New Agency reported.

Patients of Rift Valley fever - spread by mosquitoes - usually experience fever, generalised weakness, back pain, dizziness, vomiting of blood and extreme weight loss at the onset of the illness.

Many patients recover within up to a week but others can die, including those with weakened immune systems, experts say.

Munyao said the authorities, currently fanning out across affected regions, had vaccinated only 400 000 heads of livestock of the targeted two million to prevent a further spread of the disease.

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