Biological Weapons --
Rift Valley Fever

As a biological warfare agent, the primary threat is delivery by aerosol release.
Symptoms Incubation is 2 - 5 days and usually followed by an incapacitating fever of similar duration.

Common symptoms are fever, muscle pain, and prostration. Physical examination may reveal only conjunctival injection, mild low blood pressure, flushing, and petechial hemorrhages. Full-blown symptoms typically evolves to shock and generalized mucous membrane hemorrhaging, and often is accompanied by evidence of pulmonary hematopoietic, and neuralgic involvement. Retinitis is common.

A small number of infections will lead to a late encephalitis.

How does it spread?

Feeding mosquito

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs in Africa. It can be transmitted through the air and fomites from slaughtering infected animals.

Patients generally have significant quantities of virus in blood and often other secretions so special caution must be used in handling sharps, needles, etc. It can easily be spread in healthcare settings.


Blood and other specimens from patients with signs and symptoms require lab analysis.

(Sewage, bulk blood, suctioned fluids, secretions, and excretions should be autoclaved, processed in a chemical toilet, or treated with a 5% chlorine solution for at least 5 minutes in bedpan or commode prior to flushing.)

Supportive therapy may be for liver and kidney failure, as well as replacement of coagulation factors.

The investigational antiviral drug ribavirin is available on a case-by-case basis.

Specifics on treatment can be found here

An investigative inactivated vaccine is available on a compassionate basis.

Both inactivated and live-attenuated Rift Valley fever vaccines are currently under investigation.

Mortality is roughly 50%. Should the patient die, there should be minimal handling of the body, with sealing of the corpse in leak-proof material for prompt burial or cremation.

Survivors may be left with long-term challenges such as blindness, hearing loss, and other neuralgic and eye problems.


USAMRIID's Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbood; Fourth Edition February 2001; pages 9-10;
Federation of American Scientists;
Virtual Naval Hospital: Treatment of Biological Warfare Agent Casualties;

All contents © 2001 Stan and Holly Deyo. All rights reserved.

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