DTRA awards funds to fight Rift Valley fever

Officials with the Midwest Research Institute have announced that they have won a $1.6 million federal contract to study a virus that could be a biological threat.

The funds were awarded to the Kansas City-based company by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to analyze Rift Valley fever virus, reports.

MRI officials said in a statement that the virus can cause significant disease in both humans and animals and that there is an emphasis on the need to respond to outbreaks in both.

Company officials told that four to six researchers will work on the project. The researchers will look at genetic and environmental factors that affect the evolution of the virus, with the hope of later using this information to detect and fight it.

Officials told that the virus is passed to humans by infected mosquitoes. Although it is mostly found in livestock, it can be transmitted to humans.

Currently, the virus is most prevalent in Kenya, where an outbreak occurred earlier this year. Approximately 400 Kenyans died from the virus in 1998.

Rift Valley fever virus was first reported in 1915 in Kenyan livestock. It was first isolated in 1931.

In humans the virus can cause several different symptoms. Usually, sufferers have either no symptoms or only a mild illness with fever, headache, myalgia and liver abnormalities.