Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar have lifted a ban imposed in April on the importation of farm animals and meat in a bid to keep the region free of Rift Valley Fever (RVF).
"We are now convinced that RVF is not a threat," Rahma Mshangama, an official from the Zanzibar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, told a news conference on 29 June in Stone Town, capital of Zanzibar. "Farm animals and products can be imported after obtaining a permit from livestock department."
An RVF outbreak in December 2006, mainly in the central region of mainland Tanzania, claimed the lives of several people. Dozens of others were infected in the north and southern regions of the mainland.
The indefinite ban on the importation of livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, camels and meat, led to an increase in the price of meat on the island. Zanzibaris dependent on livestock also saw their incomes fall after the ban.
Residents, including two hotel owners in Stone Town, said they were pleased with the lifting of the ban and hoped the price of beef would fall from the current TSh5,000 (US$4) per kilogram.
The RVF outbreak was first diagnosed in January in the northern regions of Arusha and Manyara and by the end of May, cases of human and livestock infections and deaths had been reported in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Morogoro, Singida and Tanga.
According to the Ministry of Livestock, a total of 46,680 cattle, 56,990 goats and 32,900 sheep were infected and 5,610 cattle, 6,896 goats and 3,998 sheep died.
In late February, veterinarians started vaccinating livestock in the affected regions of Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro and Tanga after receiving vaccines against RVF from South Africa.
On 18 June, the Ministry of Livestock announced the RVF outbreak had been brought under control.
"There are no more cases of the viral disease in livestock. The disease is now under control," Charles Mlingwa, deputy minister for livestock development, told parliament in Dodoma, the country's political capital.
Veterinary officials said the livestock vaccination helped bring the outbreak under control, and that the government had spent about $3.84 million to curb the outbreak, with most of the money going on imported vaccines.
RVF was first identified in Kenya in 1931. Its initial symptoms include spontaneous abortions in sheep, goats and cattle. The UN World Health Organization says the virus can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito or through contact with infected animal material such as blood or other body fluids or organs.
Consumption of milk, a staple among many pastoralists, is also a possible means of transmission. Symptoms in humans include bleeding through the nose and mouth and liver failure.