The confirmation of two patients of the deadly Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever from the same area in the Rawalpindi division during last one month, particularly ahead of Eidul Azha, has convinced health experts to stress on the need for taking preventive measures to avoid a possible outbreak of the infection.
During last five weeks, two patients have been tested positive for CCHF from Choa Saidan Shah, a tehsil of the district Chakwal in the Rawalpindi division. One of the two confirmed patients, Abdul Razzaq, expired at the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi on August 29.
Health experts termed the confirmation of CCHF in two patients alarming and said that the matter needs urgent attention as sacrificial animals have started arriving in the Rawalpindi division from far-flung areas of the country for sale before Eidul Azha. The sacrificial animals brought to Rawalpindi may carry ticks causing CCHF. If it happens, a great disaster, God forbid, is on the cards, said a top health official serving at the HFH.
Pleading anonymity, he said that all concerned departments, including health department, livestock department and tehsil municipal administrations in the Rawalpindi division need to take up the matter as a serious issue on urgent basis.
It is, however, ironical that none of the concerned government authorities has so far taken any precautionary measures for the prevention of CCHF. Health experts say that if the sacrificial animals being brought to town were not handled properly, they might spread CCHF in the Rawalpindi division.
The CCHF, whose case fatality rate ranges from 2% to 50%, is caused by Nairovirus of the Bunyaviridae family transmitted to humans by the bite of Hyalomma tick that is mostly found on the skin of animals including goat and sheep. The CCHF is also caused by direct contact with the blood of an infected animal or human.
“Keeping in mind the existence of ticks causing CCHF in cattle in Chakwal, the concerned government authorities should take serious steps to clear all cattle entering into town from ticks,” said another health official while talking to ‘The News’ on Friday. He added that no sacrificial animal should be allowed to enter into the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi without thorough examination.
The CCHF is highly contagious. Some nine years back, Dr. Farzana Altaf of the HFH died after developing CCHF while treating a CCHF patient. Also, it is alarming that a number of CCHF cases have been reported in the country during last one decade.
‘The News’ tried to contact Executive District Officer (Health) Dr. Zafar Iqbal Gondal on Friday, but he did not make himself available for comments even after a number of calls made on his mobile phone. Dr. Gondal holds the charge of Director Health Services, Rawalpindi Division.
District Health Officer Dr. Khalid Randhawa, when contacted by ‘The News’ on Friday, said that he had brought the issue into the notice of District Coordination Officer Rawalpindi Saqib Zafar on Thursday who assured that necessary preventive measures would be taken against the CCHF soon.
To a query, Dr. Randhawa said that reporting of a single confirmed case of CCHF should be taken as an outbreak of the infection. “The DCO has planned to hold a meeting with senior officials of tehsil municipal administrations and health and livestock departments the next week to ensure the required preventive measures,” he said.