Spatio-temporal variation in prevalence of Rift Valley fever: a post-epidemic serum survey in cattle and wildlife in Kenya

Olivia Wesula Lwande, George Omondi Paul, Patrick I. Chiyo, Eliud Ng’ang’a, Viola Otieno, Vincent Obanda, Magnus Evander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a fatal arthropod-borne zoonotic disease of livestock and humans. Since the identification of RVF in Kenya in the 1930s, repeated epizootics and epidemics coinciding with El Niño events have occurred in several locations in Africa and Saudi Arabia, causing mass deaths of livestock and humans. RVF is of great interest worldwide because of its negative effect on international livestock trade and its potential to spread globally. The latter is due to the increasing incidence of extreme climatic phenomena caused by global warming, as well as to the increase in global trade and international travel. How RVF is maintained and sustained between epidemics and epizootics is not clearly understood, but it has been speculated that wildlife reservoirs and trans-ovarian transmission in the vector may be important. Several studies have examined the role of wildlife and livestock in isolation or in a limited geographical location within the one country over a short time (usually less than a year). In this study, we examined the seroprevalence of anti-RVF antibodies in cattle and several wildlife species from several locations in Kenya over an inter-epidemic period spanning up to 7 years. Methods: A serological survey of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies to RVF using competitive ELISA was undertaken on 297 serum samples from different wildlife species at various locations in Kenya. The samples were collected between 2008 and 2015. Serum was also collected in 2014 from 177 cattle from Ol Pejeta Conservancy; 113 of the cattle were in close contact with wildlife and the other 64 were kept separate from buffalo and large game by an electric fence. Results: The seroprevalence of RVF virus (RVFV) antibody was 11.6% in wildlife species during the study period. Cattle that could come in contact with wildlife and large game were all negative for RVFV. The seroprevalence was relatively high in elephants, rhinoceros, and buffalo, but there were no antibodies in zebras, baboons, vervet monkeys, or wildebeest. Conclusions: Diverse species in conservation areas are exposed to RVFV. RVFV exposure in buffalo may indicate distribution of the virus over wide geographical areas beyond known RVFV foci in Kenya. This finding calls for thorough studies on the epizootology of RVFV in specific wildlife species and locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30106
JournalInfection Ecology and Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Olivia Wesula Lwande et al.


  • cattle
  • emerging disease
  • inter-epidemic period
  • one-health
  • trans-boundary disease
  • zoonosis


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