Mosquitoes are main means of transmission of rift valley virus. They act as the biological vectors of rift valley fever, carrying the infection from infected person/animal to other humans or animals. The particular species of mosquitoes those are mainly responsible for spreading the infection include Anopheles, Culex and Aedes. Some insects are also known to transmit the rift valley fever virus but its occurrence is very low. The potential insects that can spread this infection include ticks, blackflies, biting midges, sandflies, tsetse flies and stable flies.
The outbreak of rift valley fever and the survival of the rift valley fever virus depend largely on the conditions and thus the whole mechanism varies from one region to another. For instance, in the case of Savannah, the rift valley fever virus can stay inactive but alive in the dried eggs of the Aedes mosquitoes. These eggs can survive in the shallow depressions in soil called as dumbos. When the rain arrives and fills these holes with water, the eggs can hatch and the virus becomes active.
Scientists are still trying to understand the exact mechanism of spreading of infection and survival of the virus in other climatic conditions such as forested regions.
How Do You Get Rift Valley Fever?
The main cause of rift valley virus in humans is the bite of mosquitoes infected with rift valley fever. Some other insects that have virus-contaminated mouthparts are also known to cause rift valley fever infection in humans. Human beings sleeping in the open especially in the areas where there is a breakout of rift valley fever can easily get this infection. As we have already seen that not all species of mosquitoes spread rift valley fever virus. Also, different species of mosquitoes are active in different parts of the world. Thus, the chances of getting infected by rift valley fever virus through a mosquito bite vary from one part of the world to another. The environmental factors such as floods and heavy rainfall can also increase the risk of getting infected.
Some people who are involved in specific professions where they need to handle animals can get RVF infection from the infected animals. This includes people working in the slaughter houses or veterinary centers. Raw milk or the unpasteurized milk is can also contain this virus if it comes from an infected cow or buffalo and can infect the person drinking it. Thus, it is important that milk must be properly boiled or pasteurized before drinking. Experts are still divided in their opinions if unpasteurized milk can actually spread the infection but there are no evidence to rule out the possibilities either.
Although rift valley fever is infectious in nature, it does not spread through physical contact. Thus, it is safe to touch a person who is infected with rift valley fever.
However, there is a strong possibility of getting infected if you come in contact with any fluid, blood or tissue from an infected person. This is usually the case with people working in the hospitals or serving as nurses at home.
The following steps explain the whole process:
- Female mosquitoes infected with the rift valley fever virus transmit it into their offspring via eggs (vertical transmission).
- The virus can stay inactive but viable (infectious) in the dry eggs for very long periods of time as much as several years.
- When there is excessive rainfall, the dry eggs come alive and can hatch to produce off springs.
- These newly born mosquitoes feed on animals and human beings, thus spreading the infection into a large part of the population of animals as well as humans.
How to Cope with Rift Valley Fever?
If you suspect that you are infected with rift valley fever, you need to see your doctor immediately for proper diagnoses of the condition for better coping. There are many other medical conditions that share some common symptoms with rift valley fever. Thus, you need to be absolutely sure about the rift valley fever before you take any medication of the same. Usually, no treatment is required as Rift valley Fever can get better on its own in 2-3 days. If the symptoms of Rift valley Fever do not ease out in a couple of days or start to get worse, you need to contact your doctor immediately. In some cases, it can lead to severe symptoms and can even lead to death. Thus, ignoring the symptoms that persist for more than 2 days is not recommended.