The European Union is not at imminent risk from Rift Valley fever, but developments in neighbouring countries mean that the EU authorities and Member States should strengthen, improve and harmonise their surveillance and response capability as well as their scientific and technical expertise to be better prepared for introduction of the disease.
The EU should also continue to collaborate closely with North African and Middle Eastern countries to evaluate the possibility of Rift Valley fever spreading from currently infected areas, and to monitor the evolution of the epidemics in other countries.
These are the main recommendations of a scientific opinion by EFSA on the risk of introduction of Rift Valley fever to Europe.
Rift Valley fever is a vector-borne disease transmitted by a wide range of mosquito species to animals (domestic and wild ruminants and camels) and humans. It is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and recent outbreaks in a French overseas department and the detection of seropositive cases – animals with Rift Valley antibodies in their blood, indicating previous exposure to the virus – in countries close to Europe have raised the possibility of incursion into the EU territory.
The overall risk of introduction of the disease into the EU through the movement of infected animals is considered to be very low, given the strict policies on animal imports. The risk of introduction through the movement of infected vectors is also very low, even in those countries with air and sea connections to infected areas.