Rift Valley fever has been confirmed on a sheep farm in the Jacobsdal area in the Free State‚ the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries said on Wednesday.

So far‚ this is the only farm reported to be affected and further investigations are being carried out by the local veterinary services‚ it said.

Rift Valley fever is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes. It affects cattle‚ sheep and goats and causes abortions and deaths in especially young animals. Humans can also be infected if they come into contact with the blood and other body fluids of an infected animal or an aborted foetus.

The department said care should be taken when handling possibly infected animals or carcasses of animals that had died of the disease.

"Symptoms in humans are flu-like and some individuals can develop more serious complications. If a person suspects they might have been infected with Rift Valley Fever‚ they must consult a doctor," the department said.

"The recurrence of Rift Valley fever is due to increased rainfall‚ which in turn causes an increase in mosquitoes. As this outbreak occurred at the beginning of the winter season‚ it will probably be an isolated incident as the cold weather will result in a decrease in the number of mosquitoes and therefore decrease the risk the disease spreading."

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