________________________________________________________________________ Kenya urged to combat epidemic of Rift Valley fever Copyright ) 1998 Nando.net Copyright ) 1998 Agence France-Presse NAIROBI (January 15, 1998 10:13 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Doctors and politicians have demanded emergency action to contain an "out of control" epidemic of Rift Valley fever, one of the deadly diseases raging in floodswept Kenya and Somalia. Estimates of the number of dead varied wildly, but Red Cross and Red Crescent sources warned that the disease was "out of control." Kenyan members of parliament from the affected region claimed at a press conference Wednesday that 5,000 people had died from the epidemic and from starvation caused by flooding. The 14 lawmakers demanded that the government act urgently, saying, "We are afraid the time will come when the living will envy the dead." The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, referring to deaths from the Rift Valley fever virus alone, put the figure much lower -- at "more than 450." The politicians' figures "do not correspond with ours," federation information delegate John Sparrow told AFP on Thursday. But he added that aid workers had "tremendous problems with access" because of disastrous flooding that has cut many roads, and were relying in many areas on word-of-mouth and police radio links. "We fully see where the politicians are coming from," he said, adding that people were "suffering terribly" as a result of torrential rains that have pounded East Africa for the past three months. Flooding has killed close to 2,000 people in southern Somalia and hundreds in other countries, aid agencies say. Cholera and malaria have both reached epidemic proportions in East Africa, and people are dying of respiratory infections and other flood-related diseases. The RVF epidemic broke out about a month ago, but has only just been diagnosed. It is spread from animals to human beings by mosquitoes, but people can also contract it by handling infected animals, or even by breathing it in while handling carcasses.
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