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Kenya: Alert As Virus Leaps Over Buffer Zone

The virus causing Rift Valley Fever has outmanoeuvred local and international experts, vaulting over a buffer between North Eastern and Coast provinces to land// in Maragua, Central province, for the first time. This has created fear that the killer bug could be headed for Nairobi.

The buffer was created by the ministry of Livestock Development, with help from World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

It aimed at vaccinating two million animals while maintaining zero contact with livestock from other parts of the country.

Increase dramatically
The jump could see the number of animals to be vaccinated increasing dramatically, and possibly overwhelming available capacity.

Started about three weeks ago, the programme had vaccinated only 120,000 animals by Sunday. The country depends on erratic supply of vaccine from the United States and South Africa, although the virus was first isolated in Kenya and a cure developed by local scientists.

The Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Joseph Musaa, says Kenya should have strategic reserves of the vaccine "because the problem occurs here and is bound to recur."

Locally, the vaccine is developed at the Kenya Veterinary Vaccine Production Institute, Kabete, but the supplies cannot meet the current demand. "It is ironic that we have to import vaccines from countries that acquired the technology from us," he says.

The outbreak is the second most severe since 1930. But this time around, its re-appearance was predicted as early as September.

But the virus met little organized resistance and went ahead to claim over 100 human lives, scores of livestock and wildlife. It is feared the fever could spread to Juba valley in the Sudan, triggering a major food crisis in the region.

What happens next is also predictable, the bug will soon go into hiding -it is not clear where to - but it will come back in three
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