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Rift Valley fever outbreak, Southern Mauritania, 2012.

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV; genus Phlebovirus, family Bunyaviridae) periodically causes outbreaks in humans and livestock (1), mostly in sub-Saharan Africa (2,3). Rift Valley fever (RVF) in humans is characterized by a mild, acute, febrile illness with spontaneous recovery, although 1%-2% of cases may evolve to more severe disease, such as acute hepatitis, encephalitis, retinitis, or a hemorrhagic syndrome (4,5). In Mauritania, RVF outbreaks have been reported repeatedly; the first occurred in 1987 after the building of the Diama dam, which had ecologic and environmental effects that favored a large-scale outbreak that resulted in 200 human deaths (6). Since then, RVF epizootics/epidemics have been reported in Mauritania in 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2010 (7-10).

After 2-fold increase of rainfall in Mauritania during 2012 (annual total 269 mm compared with 137 mm in 2011, as measured at Temchekett station), abortions among pregnant domestic ruminant livestock were reported in the Tagant, Brakna, Trarza, Assaba, and Hodh-El-Gharbi regions of southern Mauritania, starting in September 2012 (Figure 1). By November 2012, many human patients with hemorrhagic fever, 13 of whom died, had been reported in the same regions. Preliminary biological investigation of suspected RVF cases confirmed 23 human cases; this finding led to a multidisciplinary field investigation in these regions during November 18-29, 2012. Here we report the results of this investigation and laboratory findings from this outbreak.

The Study

During the human outbreak investigation, the following case definitions were used: 1) a suspected case was illness in any patient living in Tagant, Brakna, Trarza, Assaba, and Hodh-El-Gharbi regions during September 1-November 29, 2012, that included fever and influenza-like syndrome, whether associated with bleeding or neurologic symptoms or not; 2) a probable case was a case in a patient with a suspected case who died before being tested for RVF infection markers; 3) a confirmed case was a case in a patient with a suspected case whose serum sample was positive for RVF IgM and/or who had positive results by RVF molecular assay. Contacts were defined as family members and neighbors of patients with confirmed and probable cases who showed risk for exposure to RVFV.

For the entomologic investigation, arthropods were collected by using CDC light and animal-baited traps and aspirators, sorted by species and sex (for mosquitoes) or polyspecific pools (for the other arthropods) in the field on chill table, and stored in liquid nitrogen until testing for presence of virus. Human samples were tested for IgM and IgG and by reverse transcription PCR for RVFV (11). RVFV isolation from mosquitoes and human samples was attempted by inoculation in AP61 cell lines, followed by indirect immunofluorescence assay, as described (12). Partial sequencing of the G2 and nonstructural coding regions of the small segement of RVFV detected or isolated was also performed. Data were analyzed by using R software (, [chi square] test was used to compare difference between 2 proportions, and significance was set at p < 0.05. Logistic regression was used to search for association between confirmed status and sociodemographic risk factors. Model accuracy was tested by using the Hosmer Lemeshow test; if p < 0.05, the model was rejected, but otherwise, the model was considered adequate.

A total of 288 persons had serum samples tested: 23 had confirmed cases, 47 had suspected cases, and 218 were contacts. Median age of those sampled was 24 (range 2-86) years. Forty-one (14%) persons had evidence of recent RVFV infection (20 positive for IgM, 15 by PCR, 6 both), and 24 (8%) had evidence of past infection (positive for IgG). Twelve RVFV strains were isolated from PCR-positive human samples, and phylogenetic analysis was performed on the medium and small genome segments for 6 of these isolates. These strains clustered in the West Africa lineage and formed a group with RVF strains that were isolated in northern Mauritania during the 2010 outbreak (10) (Figure 2).


The overall attack rate for this outbreak was 0.039% (Table 1), with 41 confirmed cases, including 13 deaths, and 22 probable cases. The outbreak may have started as early as July 2012, when 2 probable cases were reported at Ouad-Naga, but the first confirmed case was detected on September 9 (week 38) at the same location, after which confirmed and probable cases increased progressively from week 38 to week 41 (first week of October), when the peak of the epidemic was reached. Case reports then decreased progressively; the last confirmed and probable cases were reported during weeks 43 and 44, respectively (last 2 weeks of October). Letfatar and Marvek villages in Moudjeria and Temchekett Departments were the most affected areas during this outbreak. The attack rate was 26% (11 confirmed cases, including 2 deaths, and 2 probable cases) in Letfatar and 20% (5 confirmed cases and 1 probable case) in Marvek. In addition, 75% (18/24) of the patients who had positive results for RVF IgG (most [85.9%] adults) were found in Tagant region; IgG prevalence was 54% and 21% in Moudjeria and Tidjigja, respectively.

Persons 15-44 years of age were most affected during this RVF outbreak, representing 70.7% (29/41) of confirmed cases and 68.2% (15/22) of probable cases (Table 1). Housewives and shepherds had significantly higher attack rates than did persons in other occupational categories (36.6%; p = 0.09), probably because of exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes during agricultural work or direct contact with viremic livestock, infected tissues, and aborted animals.


Analysis of signs and symptoms among patients with confirmed RFV showed that 73.2% (30/41) had mild signs and symptoms (fever, headache, arthralgia, and myalgia), whereas 26.8% (11/41) developed hemorrhagic symptoms, mainly epistaxis (6/11 [54.5%]) and hematemesis (2/11 [18.2%]). Patients with probable cases showed more severe signs of the disease, including gingival bleeding (43%), epistaxis (36%), gastrointestinal bleeding (21%), neurologic signs (14%), and petechiae (14%). Differential diagnosis also enabled the identification of 1 case of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in Moudjeria; 12 additional persons showed signs of past infection.

A total of 292 arthropods, including 152 mosquitoes belonging to 13 species, were collected during November at 12 sites (1 trap-night/site) (Table 2). Aedes vexans, Culex poicilipes, Culex antennatus, and Mansonia uniformis comprised 52.6% of the mosquitoes collected; these 4 species are known to be RVFV vectors in the subregion. No RVFV strains were isolated from mosquitoes, but the investigations were carried out after most breeding sites had dried up and after the start of a vector control campaign by the Mauritanian authorities, which limited the number of specimens collected.


An RVF outbreak in southern Mauritania during late 2012 consisted of 41 confirmed cases, including 13 deaths, and 22 probable cases. The extent of this outbreak is probably underestimated because some RVF cases may be asymptomatic or misdiagnosed as malaria (13); underdiagnosis could also explain why the case-fatality rate (31.7%) for this outbreak was higher than that for previous outbreaks in Mauritania in 1998 (16%) (7) and 2003 (6.67%) (8). Phylogenetic analysis suggests that this outbreak resulted from re-emergence from an enzootic focus; RVF isolates from 2012 are closely related to isolates obtained in 2010 in northern Mauritania (Figure 2), which suggests endemicity of RVF in Mauritania that can be maintained by vertical transmission (14).

To facilitate identification of RVFV among animals and humans in Mauritania, an active surveillance system should be implemented or reinforced in these areas, and RVF should be primarily suspected for nonmalarial acute febrile illness (15). In addition, the identification of 1 acute and 12 past Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever infections during the investigation indicates the co-circulation of the 2 viruses, as previously shown (8), and calls for systematic differential diagnostics or a syndromic approach to hemorrhagic fever surveillance to avoid a largescale epidemic.


We thank Magueye Ndiaye and Awa Diouf for their excellent technical assistance in laboratory diagnosis and field investigations. We also thank the authorities and the field agents of the Ministry of Health of Mauritania for facilitating the investigation of this outbreak.

This work was supported by grants from the Institut Pasteur, Dakar, Senegal.

Dr Sow is a medical doctor with a master of public health degree who works in the arbovirus and viral hemorrhagic fever unit at Institut Pasteur, Dakar, Senegal. His research interests include outbreak investigations, epidemiology, and modeling arbovirus emergences.


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Abdourahmane Sow, [1] Ousmane Faye, [1] Yamar Ba, Hampathe Ba, Diawo Diallo, Oumar Faye, Cheikh Loucoubar, Mohamed Boushab, Yahya Barry, Mawlouth Diallo, and Amadou Alpha Sall

[1] These authors contributed equally to this article and are co-first authors.

Address for correspondence: Amadou Alpha Sall, Unite des Arbovirus et virus de fievres hemorragiques, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, BP 220 Dakar, Senegal; email:

Author affiliations: Unite des arbovirus et des Fievres Hemorragiques Virales de l'Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal (A. Sow, Ousmane Faye, Oumar Faye, C. Loucoubar, A.A. Sall); Unite d'Entomologie Medicale de l'Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Dakar (Y. Ba, D. Diallo, M. Diallo); Institut National de Recherche et de la Sante Publique de Nouakchott, Nouakchott, Mauritania (H. Ba); Ministere de la Sante de la Republique Islamique de Mauritanie, Mauritania (M. Boushab); and Centre National d'Etude et de Recherches Veterinaires, Nouackchott (Y. Barry)

Table 1. Attack rates and lethality of human Rift Valley fever cases,
by region, sex, and age, southern Mauritania, November 2012

                  No. confirmed      No. probable   Attack rate, cases/
Category        cases (no. deaths)      cases        1,000 population

  Moudjeria           16 (4)              3                0.39
  Tiguidja            4 (3)               2                0.128
  Tamcheket           7 (0)               2                0.22
  Tintane             3 (1)               0                0.035
  Kiffa               1 (0)               8                0.088
  Macta lajar         2 (1)               4                0.095
  Ouad Naga           2 (1)               3                0.143
  Guerou              1 (1)               0                0.024
  Aleg                1 (0)               0                0.011
  Djigueni            1 (0)               0                0.017
  Amourj              1 (1)               0                0.001
  Nema                2 (1)              0                0.024
  M                   18 (7)              10               0.036
  F                   23 (6)              12               0.041
Age group, y
  0-14                5 (0)               2                0.011
  15-44              29 (12)              15               0.071
  45-64               3 (0)               3                0.021
  >65                 4 (1)               2                0.105
Total                41 (13)              22               0.039

Category        Death rate, %   population

  Moudjeria         25.0          48,751
  Tiguidja          75.0          46,944
  Tamcheket           0           40,887
  Tintane           33.0          84,649
  Kiffa               0          102,057
  Macta lajar       50.0          62,857
  Ouad Naga         50.0          34,898
  Guerou            100.0         41,844
  Aleg                0           88,077
  Djigueni            0           58,619
  Amourj            100.0        936,619
  Nema              50.0          84,242
  M                 38.9         782,614
  F                 26.1         847,830
Age group, y
  0-14                0          658,699
  15-44             41.4         622,831
  45-64               0          291,849
  >65               25.0          57,065
Total               31.7        1,630,444

Table 2. Arthropods collected during investigation of Rift Valley
fever outbreak, by region, southern Mauritania, 2012

Species                         Moudjeria   Ouad Naga   Tamcheket

  Aedes sudanensis                 --          --          --
  Ae. vexans                       --          --          --
  Anopheles funestus               --          --          --
  An. pharoensis                    7          --          --
  An. rhodesiensis                 --          --           8
    An. rhodesiensis male          --          --          21
  An. rufipes                      15          --          --
  An. ziemanni                      5          --          --
  Culex antennatus                  6          --          --
  Cx. decens                       --          --          --
    Cx. decens male                --          --          --
  Cx. neavei                        2          --          --
  Cx. poicilipes                   15          --          --
  Cx. quinquefasciatus             --           3          --
    Cx. quinquefasciatus male                   6          --
  Mansonia uniformis                1          --          --
Total no. mosquitoes               51           9          29
Other arthropods
  Culicoides spp.                   6          --           1
  Phlebotomus spp.                 108         --          11
Total no. arthropods               165          9          41

Species                         Tidjikja   Total

  Aedes sudanensis                 1         1
  Ae. vexans                       45       45
  Anopheles funestus               1         1
  An. pharoensis                   --        7
  An. rhodesiensis                 --        8
    An. rhodesiensis male          --       21
  An. rufipes                      --       15
  An. ziemanni                     --        5
  Culex antennatus                 13       19
  Cx. decens                       1         1
    Cx. decens male                1         1
  Cx. neavei                       --        2
  Cx. poicilipes                   --       15
  Cx. quinquefasciatus             1         4
    Cx. quinquefasciatus male      --        6
  Mansonia uniformis               --        1
Total no. mosquitoes               63       152
Other arthropods
  Culicoides spp.                  12       19
  Phlebotomus spp.                 2        121
Total no. arthropods               77       292

* -, none found.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:DISPATCHES
Author:Sow, Abdourahmane; Faye, Ousmane; Ba, Yamar; Ba, Hampathe; Diallo, Diawo; Faye, Oumar; Loucoubar, Ch
Publication:Emerging Infectious Diseases
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6MAUR
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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