LAST week, the Sindh health ministry confirmed that more than half of 26 patients diagnosed with Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever died in various hospitals of Karachi. Such cases are not uncommon during the Eidul Azha festivities, when a large number of livestock enters the cities. The majority of dead are believed to have contracted the virus during this time. The tick-borne disease typically lives on livestock and can be transmitted to humans through bites or close contact with the infected animals, including handling and slaughtering them. CCHF can also be spread through bodily fluids in human-to-human contact. A highly contagious virus, patients have to be kept in isolated conditions during treatment. According to the World Health Organisation, there is a 30pc chance of fatality after being infected; this typically occurs within the first two weeks of contracting the virus. Some of the early symptoms include fever, nausea, headaches, along with pain in the muscles, neck and back areas. Patients also experience sensitivity in their eyes and towards the light. After a few days, they may report vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and a sore throat. Others report a rapid heartbeat, skin rashes and bleeding. Psychologically, the sufferers exhibit mood swings and confusion. This can then progress to lethargy and depression. In the final stages, the kidneys weaken or there is sudden liver failure.
CCHF is a silent killer as infected animals do not exhibit any obvious signs that would point to an infection. While there is no vaccine for this disease, treatment is available for humans. More importantly, preventive measures can be taken if there are efforts to spread greater awareness about the spread of the disease, especially during the Eidul Azha holidays. Animals should be sprayed with tick repellents, and humans must wear protective equipment when handling them. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we take health and hygiene practices far too lightly, until there is no choice — or it is too late.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2019