Developing a Research Agenda and a Comprehensive National Prevention and Response Plan for Rift Valley Fever in the United States
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Developing a Research Agenda and a Comprehensive National Prevention and Response Plan for Rift Valley Fever in the United States

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    • Alternative Title:
      Emerg Infect Dis
    • Description:
      The 1999 introduction and rapid spread of West Nile virus (WNV) across the United States demonstrated our vulnerability to emerging mosquito-borne viruses, but also showed the abilities of the US public health and animal health systems to identify weaknesses and develop strategies to reduce them. For example, although many counties already had vector and disease surveillance programs, the arrival of WNV compelled more communities to act. Unfortunately, the protective infrastructure that grew during our reaction to WNV is dissolving as funding is repositioned to new threats. With each new threat, public health and animal health agencies are charged with developing response plans and disbursing funds to a tangled web of bench scientists and "boots on the ground." Two key shortfalls in our approach to emerging disease threats have come out of this: 1) US public health and animal health agencies have become reactive rather than proactive—new committees and infrastructure are formed to deal with new threats and wheels are reinvented; and 2) because agencies tend to work independently, wheels are reinvented in parallel.

      Given these shortfalls, on December 5, 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health in Fort Collins, Colorado, hosted a multi-agency and university working group to confront the issue of Rift Valley fever (RVF), a mosquito-borne zoonotic hemorrhagic viral disease confined mainly to sub-Saharan Africa. In these countries, human and livestock populations bear prominent health and economic effects during an RVF outbreak (1). Sheep, goats, and cattle are particularly susceptible to the disease. RVF virus (RVFV) is classified as an overlap select agent, i.e., affecting both humans and non-human animals, by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and APHIS (2,3). If introduced into the United States RVFV could be spread by mosquitoes like WNV is, but could also be spread by contact with infected vertebrate tissues or aerosols (4). No approved human or animal vaccines exist for use in the United States.

      The Rift Valley Fever Working Group comprises >30 participants from more than a dozen US government agencies and universities. It was launched by scientists from the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and the University of Wyoming during a smaller spring meeting in 2006. At that meeting, participants discussed RVF research, ranging from vaccine and diagnostics development to spatially explicit geographic information system (GIS)–based modeling of potential US vector mosquitoes, as well as new collaborative initiatives focused on the risk for mosquito transmission of RVFV after natural or intentional introduction. The capstone of the spring meeting was the development of an outline for an interagency RVF research and response group. This led to the winter meeting with over 20 presentations and facilitated discussions covering a broad scope of RVF issues. Several presentations highlighted areas of research that would improve our response to RVF, for example, ecologic modeling of vectors; communications and reporting models; surveillance, response, and control models; and vaccine and diagnostics development. Many presentations showed how individual agencies have responded to RVF in the past, and recommendations for future collaborations were discussed. The group also detailed how other emerging infectious disease (EID) response plans or unique agency services could be applied to RVF outbreaks

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