Rift Valley Fever in Rural Northern Senegal: Human Risk Factors and Potential Vectors

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  • Institut Pasteur, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institut Francais de Recherche Scientifique pour le Developpement en Cooperation (ORSTOM), U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dakar, Senegal
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To investigate past infection in and transmission of Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus to humans within an endemic focus, we undertook a retrospective cohort study of the seminomadic Peul people living in sub-Saharan northcentral Senegal. Residents of the rural settlement of Yonofere five years of age or older were studied during February–May 1989. Anti-RVF virus IgG was found in blood samples of 22.3% of 273 persons who responded to a standard questionnaire; none had IgM antibodies. Seropositivity was similar for males (25.4%) and females (21.1%), increased markedly with age for both sexes, and varied considerably among compounds (groups of huts) (0–37.5%). Risk factors for past RVF virus infection were nursing sick people, assisting animals during abortions/births, and treating sick animals. In all age groups, odds ratios (ORs) for RVF viral antibody among females who reported treating sick animals were three to six times greater than for those who did not. The ORs for males who reported assisting with animal births/abortions and nursing sick people were approximately five times those for males who did not. Serologic prevalence of RVF viral antibody among sheep averaged 30.1% overall (0.8% IgM), but varied among compounds (0–66.7%) in a manner different from that of humans. The seasonal abundance and relative density of potential mosquito vectors were estimated by monthly samples captured in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-type traps. Mosquito abundance varied seasonally with rainfall (> 90% captures during four months). Species diversity was large (28 spp.), dominated by Aedes and Culex. Rift Valley fever virus was not isolated from 142 pools of 2,956 unengorged mosquitoes tested, although three other arboviruses were found. Results indicate that RVF is endemic in this region, people are at considerable risk of infection, and that a heretofore unrecognized mode of human infection under nonepizootic conditions may be transmission via contact with infected animals or humans.