Blue Mountain Fever. Was the training exercise on an introduction of Rift Valley Fever into Florida a success?
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Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a zoonotic viral disease. It was first recognized in the Rift Valley of East Africa, but it is now recognized to be an endemic disease affecting most of Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Since 1970, on occasion, it has shown an ability to spread northwards causing epidemics in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It is considered an emerging pathogen and a select agent. The disease in most humans is characterized by fever and malaise, but a small percentage of patients develop fatal encephalitis and/or generalized hemorrhage. In animals, the disease is particularly severe in lambs and calves, which die of generalized hemorrhage; pregnant animals commonly abort. RVF is transmitted by several species of mosquito, but human infection is often associated with the slaughter of infected animals. Experimental studies have established that US species of mosquito can transmit the virus. It is feared that the RVF virus, if introduced accidentally or through bioterrorism, could have a greater impact than West Nile virus on the animal and human populations of North America. The following report is a result of a three day multi-agency disease outbreak exercise and evaluation, with a focus on collaboration between stakeholders, as held for the state of Florida from 18-20 November 2008 in the State Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC) in Tallahassee. The exercise was a collaborative effort between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the University of Florida (College of Veterinary Medicine) and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT). As far as could be researched, this was the first exercise ever held dealing with a Rift Valley fever outbreak on a state wide, multi-agency scale. The exercise was in large part a so called ‘table-top’ exercise, but field components were added to try to make it as challenging and realistic as possible for the involved stakeholders.