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CEI LogoRift Valley Fever, Saudi Arabia

Impact Worksheet, 20 September 2000

Summary: An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) is occurring in southwest Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border. The primary significance of this outbreak is that it marks the first time that Rift Valley Fever has been found outside of Africa. In Saudi Arabia, 16 to 30 people have died, and from 20 to 38 more people were sick from the viral disease. Laboratory tests conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control have positively diagnosed RVF. The disease was transmitted by sheep and a large number of unspecified animals--presumably sheep--have died. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer of live sheep, goats, and camels , and has imposed a temporary ban on imports of these live animals from at least 7 countries in the region. Risk to the US is probably negligible. The US imported no live animals or primary animal commodities from Saudi Arabia in 1999 or 2000. About 100 direct flights arrive in the US from Saudi Arabia annually, carrying roughly 53,000 passengers.

RVF Saudi Arabia

How extensive is the situation in the affected country and what was the country’s disease status prior to the outbreak?

An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in the Jizan area of southwest Saudi Arabia, near the Yemeni border (see "O" on the map), was described in the ProMed list server and Reuters OnLine. Sixteen to 30 people have died and from 20 to 38 more people are sick from the viral disease, according to quotes attributed to Saudi Arabian Health Ministry officials and the Saudi press. Laboratory tests were conducted in Atlanta, Georgia, and a Centers for Disease Control official has since confirmed the positive diagnosis for RVF. The disease was transmitted by sheep and a large number of unspecified animals had died, according to Saudi officials. This is the first ever outbreak of RVF in Saudi Arabia, and possibly the first ever outbreak away from the African continent.

Authorities in Jizan province have reportedly instituted emergency measures. Mosquito spraying was planned in Jizan because the virus may have been transmitted by mosquitoes following recent heavy rains there. Livestock movement controls were also planned, according to the Saudi Health Ministry.

So urce: Promed, 16 and 17 Sept. 2000; AgWorldwide

What is the country’s production and trade in affected animals and animal products?

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer of live sheep, goats, and camels. Following this RVF outbreak, Saudi Arabia has imposed a temporary ban on the import of sheep, goats, and camels from countries including Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Yemen. Traditionally, large numbers of sheep are imported during the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan (primarily December), during which more than 3 million sheep are slaughtered Kingdom-wide.

In May 1999, the Saudi government had lifted a 16-month ban on imports of livestock from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, and Yemen. The bans were due to World Health Organization reports citing Rift Valley Fever in those countries. Saudi officials lifted the restrictions based on announcements that those countries were free of RVF. Somalia had been the leading supplier of sheep to the Kingdom and was most hurt by the ban.

Table A: Stocks and Trade in Live Animals, Saudi Arabia

Live Animal

1999 Stocks


1998 Exports

1998 Imports


% World


% World


% World


























Source: United Nations FAO; USDA Foreign Agricultural Service attache reports ; and AgWorldwide

What are the affected US imports from Saudi Arabia?

The US imports no live animals or primary animal commodities from Saudi Arabia.

Source: World Trade Atlas

What is the level of passenger traffic arriving in the United States from the affected country?

A total of 52,951 passengers arrived in the US on direct flights from Saudi Arabia in 1998. This number did not include passengers who arrived in the US from Saudi Arabia via indirect flights. About 100 direct flights arrive in the US from Saudi Arabia annually.

As part of APHIS-PPQ's agriculture quarantine inspection monitoring, 421 air passengers from Saudi Arabia were sampled for items of agricultural interest in fiscal 1999. Six of these passengers (<2%) were carrying a total of 3 kg of restricted items such as meat that could potentially harbor the RVF virus. None of the passengers with restricted items reported plans to visit or work on a ranch or farm while in the US.

Source: US Department of Transportation, and APHIS-PPQ Agricultural Quarantine Inspection data base

CEI’s plans for follow up:

As of 20 September, CEI has no further plans regarding the Saudi Arabia situation. If you seek more information or wish to comment on this worksheet, contact Ken Geter at (970) 490-7817 or David Cummings at (970) 490-7895.

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