Kenya Rift Valley Fever update

In yesterday’s post regarding the current outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Kenya, I noted:

…while there’s little people in the area can do about periodic flooding, scientists are actively examining the relationship between weather and RVF outbreaks. This hopefully will prove useful to predict–and potentially ward off–future disease outbreaks via animal vaccination.

Little did I know that this outbreak had already been predicted by scientists working in this area–back in September. More after the jump…

The deaths from Rift Valley fever could have been avoided if Kenya had heeded a warning by an American body that changing climatic conditions posed a risk.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), says the US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) Goddard Space Flight centre, sounded the alarm way back in September, two months before the first case was reported in Garissa.

However, it is not clear whether the country received the warning or simply ignored it.

The centre had warned that rising temperatures accompanied by heavy rains in Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean and Western Indian Ocean, could spark an outbreak of the disease.

The warning was contained in FAO’s September edition of the Emergency Prevention Systems Magazine, EMPRESS WATCH. The centre had been monitoring climate in East Africa for several years.

“The heavy rains being experienced were similar to what was observed in 1997/1998 when a major outbreak occurred in Tanzania, Somalia and Kenya,” read the warning.

“The outbreak of Rift Valley Fever is another example that requires a quick and coordinated response,” said FAO’s New Crisis Management Centre manager Karin Schwabenbauer.

Unfortunately, in impoverished countries where other infectious diseases are a more common–and ever-present–problem, there’s not necessarily a lot that can be done about a *potential* epidemic. Heck, even in the United States with diseases that we know will be a problem–such as influenza–it’s difficult to motivate anyone to do much about it. So this story is good and bad–it’s a positive thing that, indeed, predictions made by the climate scientists appear to have been validated, but what good is that if little or nothing is done to ward off a potential outbreak? The science is only as useful as the policies in place to act on the findings, unfortunately.

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