Rift Valley Fever: Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania

I recently returned from Tanzania having spent two weeks in Arusha. The headline in the Arusha Times the day after we arrived read “Fear grips town as Rift Valley Fever spreads.” The article described fear surrounding the outbreak of Rift Valley fever that had spread through Kenya and was then suspected in Arusha and surrounding areas. Had I not understood how Rift Valley Fever is spread, I may have been alarmed, as many of the residents in Arusha were. Because of the outbreak, the prices of chicken and fish became prohibitive for many people, and butchers could not give away their beef. Goat meat was even less desired, because the first two reported deaths resulting from Rift Valley fever in Tanzania were supposedly related to goat meat.

Rift Valley fever is caused by the Rift Valley virus, named for the Rift Valley of Kenya where it was first isolated in 1930. The Rift Valley fever virus (RVF virus) is a member of the Bunyaviridae family of viruses (RVF virus, Hantaan virus, Dugbe virus and Bunyamwera virus).

Rift Valley fever primarily affects livestock and can cause disease in a large number of domestic animals including cattle, sheet, goats, and camels. RVF is spread by infected mosquitos and other biting insects (animal-to-animal, animal-to-human and human-to-human). Rift Valley fever is also occasionally transmitted to humans through contact with blood, body fluids or tissues of infected animals (veterinarians, slaughter-house workers, etc.).

The risk of RVF infection associated with eating beef, goat or any other animal that may be infected with the virus is minimal, especially if the meat is properly cooked. It would seem that the fear that has affected the eating habits of residents and livelihood of numerous people associated with the meat industry is largely unwarranted.

Rift Valley fever periodically occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, but has also occurred in Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and Madagascar (see Map).

The outbreak of Rift Valley fever that began last fall in Kenya is believed to be on the decline. RVF has occurred in the North Eastern, Coast, Eastern, Central and Rift Valley Provinces of Kenya. As of 2017, 411 suspected cases were reported, including 121 deaths.

An outbreak of Rift Valley fever has also been reported in Somalia. As of January 30, 2017, 100 suspected cases were reported in Somalia, including 48 deaths.

Symptoms associated with RVF are mild for most people infected: fever, generalized weakness, back pain, and dizziness lasting 2-7 days. However, some patients progress to a severe hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis or ocular disease.

The risk of acquiring Rift Valley fever when traveling to an outbreak area is relative to the risk of exposure to mosquitos carrying the virus from infected animals. As there is no licensed preventive vaccine currently available, prevention involves avoiding contact with mosquitos and other blood-sucking insects! See aritcles under “related content” below for precautions against mosquito-borne diseases.


Probiotics and Young Children: Research Proves Reduced Upper Respiratory Symptoms

Do not think that all bacteria are disease-producing. Friendly bacteria live in the digestive tract and help our bodies run smoothly by enhancing the immune system, fighting off bad bacteria, and promoting good digestion. Probiotics are products that contain live, friendly bacteria, similar to natural bacteria found in our bodies. Probiotics are most popular in supplements and food – with an explosion of new items on the market.

The two most common probiotic groups (genera) are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group has many species, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, and there are numerous strains. Probiotics are safe for adults and children, as they already naturally reside in our bodies.

Probiotics Reduces Kids’ Cold Symptoms

Published in the online journal Pediatrics, a study found that cold and flu symptoms decreased in young children, ages three to five, who took either a single probiotic or a combination of probiotics. Furthermore, the single or multiple probiotic use reduced the amount of time on antibiotics (compared to a placebo group) by 68 percent and 84 percent respectively, and missed daycare days declined. The study involved 326 healthy kids, dosed twice a day for six months.

Relative to the placebo, the single probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus (strain NCFM), compared to the multiple probiotic, L. acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium animalis (subspecies lactis Bi-07), resulted in the latter twosome combination producing more dramatic results.

  • Fevers diminished by 53 percent compared to 73 percent.
  • Coughing lessened 41 percent versus 62 percent.
  • Rhinorrhea (excessive mucous) decreased 28 percent compared to 59 percent.

Upper Respiratory Infection Risk Decreased

Reported in the e-publication of Clinical Nutrition, a study found that Lactobacillus GG produced remarkable results in reducing upper respiratory infections in daycare center children. Viruses cause upper respiratory infections, and include such symptoms as sore throat, cough, runny nose and headache.

For three months, 281 kids (in a placebo or testing group) drank either regular milk or milk containing the probiotic Lactobacillus GG. Those in the testing group showed a significantly reduced risk of upper respiratory infection and for infection lasting longer than three days.

A Flood of Probiotic Products for Young Children

It is important to read probiotic labels and determine just what gains the brands claim, such as diarrhea relief, less respiratory problems, general immune support or tame tummies. Here is a sampling of products:

  • Nature’s Way’s seven-strain powder – Primadophilus for Children (ages 0-5)
  • Sedona Labs’ six-strain powder – iFlora Probiotic for Kids
  • Amerifit Brands’ Lactobacillus GG packets– Culturelle for Kids
  • Stonyfield Farm’s six-strain organic yogurt – YoBaby and YoKids

Probiotics are Healthy and Safe for Kids

Probiotics are relatively new products marketed as supplements or added to food that hold promise for kids’ – and adults’ – healthy wellbeing. Many people know from experience that probiotics promote healthy living. Scientific research is ongoing and will confirm or deny the assertions of gastrointestinal, immune and respiratory support.

This is an educational article only. Consult your health care professional for medical advice.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Stocks Declining: Fish Farms are Causing Depletion of Wild Fish Stocks

Crowded condition of farmed fish encourages parasitic sea lice.

Parasites attack young wild salmon as they return to the sea and are threatening the sustainability of wild stocks.

Wild Atlantic Salmon Stocks

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) come into fresh water to spawn. The young travel down to the sea, and then spend a couple of years feeding in the ocean. The adult fish are genetically programmed to return to the river system of their birth, and the cycle continues. Since the 1970’s the number of adults returning to spawn has reduced by over 50%, and there are now thought to be less that four million wild salmon in the ocean.

Fish Farming Atlantic Salmon

The farming of Atlantic Salmon began in the 1970’s, initially in Norway and Scotland. Eggs are ‘stripped’ from adult salmon, hatched and raised in fresh water. When they are big enough they are put in cages, usually in estuaries, where they are fattened up for market. It is estimated that there are currently around 270 million farmed salmon (compared to 4 million wild!).

Effects of Fish Farming on Atlantic Salmon Stocks

  • The crowded conditions of the farmed salmon in their cages are ideal for encouraging parasites (see ‘Sea Lice Affect Wild Salmon’ and ‘Sea Lice and Salmon’). Unfortunately wild salmon often need to swim past these fish farms to get to the open sea, and in doing so they can pick up heavy infestations of these parasites – enough to threaten their survival.
  • Sometimes cages get damaged allowing farmed salmon to escape into the wild, and although this might initially appear to be a ‘good thing’, these escapees are genetically different from the truly wild fish, and their effect on the wild stock is detrimental.

(Watch the very impressive ‘National Geographic Multimedia Presentation’).

History of Salmon as Food

  • As far back as 20,000 BC salmon were an important food. (A carving of a salmon has been found in a cave in the Vezere region of the Dordogne – France – of this date.) There is also evidence of salmon traps in the same river system dating to around 10,000 BC.
  • More recently the site of Westminster Abbey in London is said to have been determined by the presence of salmon fishermen over a thousand years ago. (The fishermen believed they had ferried St.Peter across the Thames, and this superstition led to the building of first a chapel, and later an Abbey, where he was supposed to have been landed.)
  • Even more recently salmon was so cheap and plentiful in London that mediaeval apprentices had it written into their agreements that they would not be fed salmon more than once a week.

Like oysters, salmon were once thought of as ‘food for the poor’, but have now become a luxury food.