Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Monday said that at least 34 people across the country have died after being diagnosed with Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) - commonly known as Congo Fever.
At least 34 people diagnosed with the virus have died in the past five months and another 250 people have received medical treatment, said the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
“Since the start of the month of Hamal (21 March) until today 169 patients (have been treated),” said Assadullah Esmat, chairman of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Kabul.
Meanwhile, members of the public have called on the ministry of public health to undertake a public awareness campaign to help people take necessary measures to avoid contracting the tick-borne virus.
“People have contracted the virus through working with animals such as sheep and cows,” said one patient being treated in Kabul.
“I was diagnosed with the virus several days ago, I was feeling pain in my head and then my body,” another patient said.
• The Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks.
• CCHF outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 40%.
• The virus is primarily transmitted to people from ticks and livestock animals. Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons.
• CCHF is endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia.
• There is no vaccine available for either people or animals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Congo Fever is a widespread disease caused by a tick-borne virus (Nairovirus) of the Bunyaviridae family. The CCHF virus causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreak and has a 10 to 40 percent fatality rate.
Signs and symptoms
The length of the incubation period depends on the mode of acquisition of the virus. Following infection by a tick bite, the incubation period is usually one to three days, with a maximum of nine days. The incubation period following contact with infected blood or tissues is usually five to six days, with a documented maximum of 13 days.
Onset of symptoms is sudden, with fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light. There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on.
In the absence of a vaccine, the only way to reduce infection in people is by raising awareness of the risk factors and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to the virus.
Public health advice should focus on several aspects.
• Reducing the risk of tick-to-human transmission:
o wear protective clothing (long sleeves, long trousers);
o wear light coloured clothing to allow easy detection of ticks on the clothes;
o use approved acaricides (chemicals intended to kill ticks) on clothing;
o use approved repellent on the skin and clothing;
o regularly examine clothing and skin for ticks; if found, remove them safely;
o seek to eliminate or control tick infestations on animals or in stables and barns; and
o avoid areas where ticks are abundant and seasons when they are most active.
• Reducing the risk of animal-to-human transmission:
o wear gloves and other protective clothing while handling animals or their tissues in endemic areas, notably during slaughtering, butchering and culling procedures in slaughterhouses or at home;
o quarantine animals before they enter slaughterhouses or routinely treat animals with pesticides two weeks prior to slaughter.
• Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community:
o avoid close physical contact with CCHF-infected people;