Rift Valley Fever
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What is Rift Valley fever?
Rift Valley fever (RVF) is an illness caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. It is also spread by direct contact with blood, fluids, or tissues of infected animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels.
Most people with RVF do not feel sick or have only mild illness. Symptoms of RVF include fever, weakness, back pain, dizziness, and weight loss. People usually recover in two days to one week. However, some people may have more severe illness, such as severe bleeding, swelling of the brain, or eye disease. About 1-10% of infected people may have permanent loss of vision. Approximately 1% of people who get RVF die from the disease.
Who is at risk?
Travelers who go to Africa are at risk of getting Rift Valley fever. Higher rates of disease are seen after rainfall and flooding. Travelers are at increased risk for RVF when sleeping outdoors and when working directly with animals.
What can travelers do to prevent Rift Valley fever?
There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents RVF. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.
Prevent mosquito bites:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
- Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
- DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
- Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
- Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If you are bitten by mosquitoes:
- Avoid scratching mosquito bites.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.
- Page created: October 24, 2013
- Page last updated: July 09, 2018
- Page last reviewed: March 10, 2013
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