An investigation into an outbreak of Rift Valley fever on a cattle farm in Bela-Bela, South Africa, in 2008

Authors

  • Lourenço P Mapaco University of Pretoria
  • Jacobus A.W Coetzer University of Pretoria
  • Janusz T Paweska National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service
  • Estelle H Venter University of Pretoria

Abstract

In 2008, a suspected outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF) was reported on a farm in the Bela-Bela area, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Seven calves died on the affected dairy farm, where no RVF vaccination programme was practised. No apparent clinical disease was reported in the other 300 cattle (33 calves included) or 200 sheep on the farm. During the outbreak, blood samples from 77.7% (233/300) of the cattle and 36.5% (73/200) of the sheep were collected on the affected farm and 55 blood samples were taken from cattle on a neighbouring farm. Eight weeks later, 78% of the cattle (234/300) and 42.5% of the sheep (85/200) were bled on the affected farm only. All sera were tested by an Immunoglobulin M (IgM)-capture Enzymelinked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and by an indirect Immunoglobulin G (IgG) ELISA. Selected IgM-positive (n = 14), IgG-positive (n = 23) and samples negative for both IgM and IgG-specific antibodies against RVF virus (n = 19) were tested using the serum neutralisation test (SNT). Sera from IgM-positive (n = 14) and negative (n = 20) animals were also tested by a TaqMan polymerase chain reaction (PCR). On the affected farm, 7% (16/233) of the cattle were IgM-positive and 13.7% (32/233) IgG-positive at the first bleed and 2% were IgM-positive at the second bleed, whilst the number of cattle positive for IgG-specific antibodies increased by 21.3% compared with the first bleed. Only 1.4% of sheep were positive for both IgM and IgG antibodies at the first collection; at the second bleed, IgM-positive cases decreased to 1.2%, whilst IgG-positive cases increased to 2.4%. Whilst no IgM-positive cattle were found on the neighbouring farm, 5.5% of cattle were IgG-positive. The SNT confirmed most of the ELISA results, whilst PCR results were all negative. Although serology results indicated virus circulation on both farms, the negative PCR results demonstrated that the animals were not viraemic at the time they were sampled. The movement of infected mosquito vectors by wind over long distances into a low-lying area that favoured their breeding on the Bela-Bela farm may have led to an outbreak of the disease there, but the reason for the low level of virus circulation amongst susceptible animals remains unclear.

Author Biographies

Lourenço P Mapaco, University of Pretoria

Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Directorate of Animal Science, Central Veterinary Laboratory, Mozambique

Jacobus A.W Coetzer, University of Pretoria

Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Janusz T Paweska, National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service

National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service, Sandringham, South Africa

Estelle H Venter, University of Pretoria

Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Published

2021-12-03

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Section

Original Research