PESHAWAR: An animal dealer has died of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) at the Khyber Teaching Hospital here, said doctors on Monday.

They told Dawn that the 22-year-old was diagnosed with the viral disease at the PHRL last week.

“The animal dealer went to the Punjab province for cattle business and developed fever on return. He was first symptomatically treated in his native town of Charsadda but was later admitted to the Khyber Teaching Hospital, where he tested positive for CCHF and died afterwards,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity.

He said the death had set alarm bells ringing as it had taken place much before the Eidul Azha days.

Hospitals not sending samples from suspected cases to PHR Lab for testing, insist doctors

“We’d expected that the CCHF cases would be reported in June and July, when cattle markets for Eid are set up, attracting crowds of people, but this death has turned out to be a cause for worry,” he said.

The doctors also complained that the district headquarters hospitals continued to ignore the health department’s directives to send samples from suspected CCHF cases to the Public Health Reference Lab at Khyber Medical University for free testing.

When contacted, provincial director (public health) Dr. Irshad Roghani said an advisory about CCHF had already been issued to the district health departments, asking medical superintendents of the district headquarters hospitals to establish isolation wards for suspected cases and collect samples from them for testing by the PHRL.

“We have strengthened surveillance to ensure that suspected cases are tested and confirmed ones are isolated to prevent the spread of the virus. The hospitals not sending samples will face action,” he said.

Dr. Irshad said health minister Syed Qasim Ali Shah recently sent a letter to all divisional commissioners for preventive measures against CCHF at cattle markets throughout the province.

He added that the minister ordered the closure of cattle markets for not complying with his orders.

“We have all the facilities for specialised CCHF tests at the PHRL, and therefore, the hospitals have been directed to start sending in samples from suspected cases for testing,” he said.

The official said the leading private labs conducted that test for Rs15, 000 or even more, but the PHRL did it free of charge.

He said previously, the health department used to send samples to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad and waited for a long time to receive results.

“Now, we get results from the PHRL without delay, enabling us to respond fast,” he said.

Meanwhile, health officials said the PHRL had received just 11 CCHF samples since January, with one of them testing positive for the virus.

They told Dawn that hemorrhagic fever was very common, in which platelet counts in the blood decreased, and therefore, the doctors should dispatch samples of patients suffering from malaria and dengue hemorrhagic fever for testing.

The officials said in 2022, four people—all butchers—died of CCHF.

They said the latest death from the virus warranted the strengthening of monitoring mechanisms not only in cattle markets but also at slaughterhouses.

The officials said the government needed to direct authorities to ensure that the people don’t come in contact with the cattle to stay safe from the disease, which had a 40pc mortality rate.

They added that normally, only butchers and cleaners at slaughterhouses were vulnerable to the Congo fever, but currently, the other people, too, were at risk as they had started visiting cattle markets to buy sacrificial animals for Eid.

The officials said the people’s vulnerability increased before and during Eid, when they roamed on the streets with sacrificial animals.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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