KARACHI: A doctor from Quetta, who contracted the Congo virus, lost his life while being moved to Karachi for treatment, according to sources.

The death prompted the government of Balochis­tan to issue an alert to the departments concerned to check the spread of virus in the province.

The deceased was among the 11 healthcare providers who were infected after an outbreak of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) in the Sandeman Provincial Hospital, as per a Balochistan health department official.

According to sources, Dr Shukrullah Langove was being moved to Karachi by road when he died on the way.

Dr Hafeez Kakar, a representative of Quetta’s Young Doctors’ Asso­ciation, claimed Dr Lang­ove’s life could have been saved if the Balochistan health department had taken swift action and shifted him to Karachi through an air ambulance.

The staff has been shifting ailing healthcare providers to Karachi on a self-help basis, Dr Kakar claimed.

Talking about the virus origin, the doctor said two CCHF patients were recently treated at the hospital, and the healthcare providers contracted the infection from them.

Dr Abad Khan, associated with the Balochistan health department’s Disease Surveillance and Response Unit, has confirmed that 11 healthcare providers have tested positive for CCHF.

One of them died while being moved to Karachi, whereas four were under treatment at the Sandeman Hospital in Quetta.

Six others have been admitted to a private hospital in Karachi, where the condition of two patients is serious.

In a post on social media platform X, caretaker Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Ali Mardan Domki confirmed that three doctors, one consultant, one nurse and two paramedics were moved to Karachi on Saturday.

According to Dr Khan, a major screening exercise was carried out at the hospital after the outbreak, during which these 11 cases were detected.

Explaining how the outbreak occurred, Dr Khan said initial investigation showed that a CCHF patient from Harnai was admitted to the hospital last month. Apparently, the hospital didn’t follow the protocol for infection control during his treatment.

“He was admitted to the hospital on Oct 22. After he tested positive for CCHF, he was referred to the Fatima Jinnah Chest and General Hospital’s isolation unit for treatment. He survived the infection and was discharged.”

According to Dr Khan, one doctor fell ill with high fever and body pain on Oct 28, which was treated as a case of common cold. His condition deteriorated in the following days, and he was admitted to the intensive care unit and later shifted to CMH, Quetta, according to Dr Khan.

In the meantime, 17 to 18 doctors reported similar symptoms along with reduced platelet levels and eight tested positive for CCHF on Nov 3.

Later, Balochistan’s caretaker Chief Minister issued an emergency order to the health and the livestock departments to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

He said the general public should be immediately informed about the virus, especially those involved in the purchase and sale of livestock, cattle pastures. He said dairy farms should be sprayed with disinfectants, adding that the fever caused by the Congo virus can be fatal.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2023

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