Participatory survey of Rift Valley fever in nomadic pastoral communities of North-central Nigeria: The associated risk pathways and factors

by Nma Bida Alhaji, Olutayo Olajide Babalobi, Yiltawe Wungak, Hussaini Gulak Ularamu

Background

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is an emerging neglected mosquito-borne viral zoonotic disease of domestic animals and humans, with potential for global expansion. The objectives of this study were: to assess perceived relative burden and seasonality of RVF in nomadic cattle herds and validate the burden with sero-prevalence impact; and assess perceived risk factors associated with the disease and risk pathways for RVF virus in nomadic pastoral herds of North-central Nigeria using pastoralists’ existing veterinary knowledge.

Methods

Participatory Epidemiology (PE) survey was conducted in Fulani nomadic pastoral communities domiciled in Niger State between January and December 2015. A cross-sectional sero-prevalence investigation was also carried out in nomadic pastoral cattle herds to validate outcomes of PE. A total of nine nomadic pastoral communities were purposively selected for qualitative impact assessment using Participatory Rural Appraisal tools, while 97 cattle randomly sampled from 15 purposively selected nomadic herds and had their sera analyzed using c-ELISA. Kendall’s Coefficient of Concordance W statistics and OpenEpi 2.3.1 were used for statistical analyses.

Results

Mean proportional piles (relative burden) of RVF (Gabi-gabiF) was 8.3%, and nomads agreement on the burden was strong (W = 0.6855) and statistically significant (P<0.001). This was validated by 11.3% (11/97; 95% CI: 6.1–18.9) sero-positivity (quantitative impact). Mean matrix scores of prominent clinical signs associated with RVF were fever (3.1), anorexia (2.1), abortion (4.1), nasal discharge (3.3), neurological disorder (8.4), diarrhoea (3.2), and sudden death (4.4), with strong agreement (W = 0.6687) and statistically significant (p<0.001). Mean proportional piles of pastoralists’ perceived risk factors identified to influenced RVF occurrence were: availability of mosquitoes (18 piles, 17.6%), high cattle density (16 piles, 15.9%) and high rainfall (12 piles, 12.2%). Agreement on the risk factors was strong (W = 0.8372) and statistically significant (p<0.01). Mean matrix scores for the Entry pathway of RVF virus into the nomadic pastoral herds were: presence of RVFV infected mosquitoes (tiny biting flies) (7.9), presence of infected cattle in herds (8.4), and contacts of herd with infected wild animals at grazing (10.1). Mean matrix scores for the Spread pathway of RVF virus in herds were bites of infected mosquitoes (5.1), contacts with infected aborted fetuses/fluids (7.8), and contaminated pasture with aborted fetuses/fluids (9.7). Agreement on risk pathways was strong (W = 0.6922) and statistically significant (p<0.03). Key informants scored RVF to occurred more in Damina or late rainy season (5.3), followed by Kaka or early dry season (3.3), with strong agreement (W = 0.8719) and statistically significant (P<0.01). This study highlighted the significant existing knowledge level about RVF contained in nomadic pastoralists.

Conclusions

The use of PE approach is needful in active surveillance of livestock diseases in pastoral communities domiciled in highly remote areas. RVF surveillance system, control and prevention programmes that take the identified risk factors and pathways into consideration will be beneficial to the livestock industry in Nigeria, and indeed Africa. An ‘OneHealth’ approach is needed to improve efficiency of RVF research, surveillance, prevention and control systems, so as to assure food security and public health in developing countries.

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