PESHAWAR: Health department has asked all the divisional commissioners to ensure protective measures at animal markets ahead of Eidul Azha to prevent Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) as a case of the disease has been confirmed by Public Health Reference Laboratory of Khyber Medical University.

The divisional commissioners have been directed to close those animal markets that don’t comply with the directives regarding protective measures.

Official sources said that a butcher was tested positive for CCHF and he was being treated at Khyber Teaching Hospital.

Health Minister Syed Qasim Ali Shah in a letter on Wednesday told all the commissioners that in anticipation of increased human and animal interaction during the upcoming Eidul Azha, there was heightened risk of disease transmission particularly of CCHF for which preventive measures were required at animal markets in the province.

Health officials fear outbreak of the disease during Eidul Azha

The letter said that all animal handlers and visitors to the markets should wear gloves and apply insect repellent before entering. The provision of gloves and insect repellent at the entrance to the markets should be ensured by the owners of the markets. In case of failure, the market should be closed down, it said.

As the mode of transmission of CCHF also includes contact with infected animal blood and organs during and immediately after slaughter, the administration should advise the butchers to wear proper gloves and take all possible precautions during the slaughter process.

Meanwhile, physicians said that CCHF already infected one person. “It is an unusual development because commonly cases are reported during the sale of animals for Eidul Azha but there should be high alert especially in Peshawar where case is reported,” they added.

The disease is transmitted by ticks to humans and through contact with infected animals via blood and the virus is spread from human to human through blood contact. Bites by ticks found in the animals cause the infection. The case fatality rate of the disease is 10 per cent to 40 per cent.

According to health experts, CCHF killed four persons in the province last year. “Therefore, we need strong surveillance to control its spread through investigation of the suspected people,” they said.

They said that hospitals, livestock department and stakeholders should be sensitised to minimise the chances of transmission of Congo fever and diagnose the cases immediately and those emerging positive be managed and isolated.

There are risks that cases may emerge as it spreads from animals to humans and during Eidul Azha people come into contact with sacrificial animals.

Health officials said that they had advised all the hospitals to send specimen of suspected patients to Public Health Reference Laboratory. They said that people should to adhere to protective measures while visiting animal markets.

CCHF transmits from animals to humans via ticks, which can be avoided by wearing protective clothing, including long sleeves and trousers. The use of light-coloured clothes is recommended to allow detection of ticks easily.

Officials said that hospitals were advised to test symptomatic people. The people associated with animal business and visitors to markets should regularly examine their clothes to remove ticks. “Use insect-repellent and avoid the places where ticks are found as cases are being reported in hospitals due to outbreak of the disease,” they advised people.

They said that last year, four people died of the virus. They had caught the virus from animal market, they said.

“To put brakes on the disease transmission and risk due to anticipated increased interaction between humans and animals during the upcoming Eidul Azha, it is important to stay vigilant and take necessary steps to interrupt the transmission of CCHF,” said officials.

They said that several types of wild and domestic animals such as goats, sheep, cows and hares served as amplifying hosts for the virus, which caused viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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