Rift Valley fever: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot Rift Valley fever, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent it.

Rift Valley fever affects:

  • sheep and lambs
  • goats
  • cattle
  • humans

There has never been a known case of Rift Valley fever in Great Britain.

Rift Valley fever is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot Rift Valley fever

In lambs

The main clinical signs in lambs may include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • sudden death
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhoea

Most affected young lambs will die.

Lambs less than a week old may die within 24 hours without showing any clinical signs.

In adult sheep or goats

The main clinical signs in adult sheep or goats may include:

  • abortion
  • fever

In calves

The main clinical signs in calves may include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • depression

In cattle

The main clinical signs in cattle may include:

  • fever
  • excessive saliva
  • abortion
  • diarrhoea
  • loss of milk

Risk to humans

Rift Valley fever is usually found in Africa.

Infected humans suffer from moderate to severe flu-like symptoms.

A minority of infected humans have problems with vision.

It is not normally fatal.

How Rift Valley fever is spread

Rift Valley fever is spread by mosquitoes.

Preventing and controlling Rift Valley fever

You can help to prevent Rift Valley fever by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.

If you report suspicion of Rift Valley fever, APHA vets will investigate.

If Rift Valley is confirmed, the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation relating to Rift Valley fever

Rift Valley fever is covered by the Specified Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order 1992 and the Specified Diseases (Notification) Order 1996.

Rift Valley fever is also covered by EU Council Directive 92/119.

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 18 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. First published.