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Thursday June 13, 2024

Time to remain vigilant for potential threat of Congo fever

By Muhammad Qasim
June 09, 2024
The picture shows a cattle market. — INP/File
The picture shows a cattle market. — INP/File

Rawalpindi : A huge number of sacrificial animals are being brought to markets in almost all major cities including the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi from far flung areas of the country ahead of Eidul Azha and according to health experts, it is time for the general public to remain vigilant as incidences of the deadly infection, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever cannot be ruled out at the moment.

The mass scale movements of the sacrificial animals may serve as a source of propagation for ticks infested with CCHF thereby increasing the risk of disease transmission. A big chunk of the animals may be taken to the markets without proper handling and surveillance. The sale of animals has already been started in scattered areas of the country and a good number of animals have already been taken to the federal capital and Rawalpindi district.

Experts believe that any of the sacrificial animals being brought to the region for sale may carry ticks and therefore, it is suggested that all the concerned departments including health department, agriculture and livestock departments and tehsil municipal administrations in Rawalpindi division should plan to carry out necessary preventive activities to avoid a possible outbreak of the deadly infection.

The CCHF is endemic in Pakistan and for decades, a significant number of cases of the deadly infection are reported from different parts of the country almost every year. Most of the cases are reported mainly because of improper handling of the animals that have ticks on their skin.

Since the diagnosis of the first human cases of CCHF in 1976, sporadic cases have continued to occur across Pakistan. Although Balochistan remains the most affected province yet cases have been reported from almost all geographical regions of the country. Last year, in October, an outbreak of CCHF with more than 40 cases was reported in Balochistan province.

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever that was first described in Crimea in 1944 and identified in 1956 in Congo is zoonotic, a disease that animals cause to humans. The CCHF is caused by Nairovirus of the Bunyaviridae family transmitted to humans by the bite of Hyalomma tick found on the skin of animals including goat and sheep or by direct contact with the blood of an infected animal or human and that is why its incidence is anticipated every year before Eidul Azha. Exposure to the blood or tissue of the infected animal during or post slaughtering and direct contact with blood or secretions of an infected person may also cause transmission. The case fatality rate of the deadly infection ranges from 2% to 50%. Medically, a confirmed patient of CCHF is an important source of exposure for other people, particularly family members and healthcare workers.

Experts say that individuals must take necessary preventive measures while taking sacrificial animals home. The animals having any type of ticks on their skin, should be given a thorough bath with water carrying DEET or Potassium Permanganate.

People should reduce tick infestation on cows, sheep and goats with the help of insecticides. Acaricides, the pesticides that kill ticks and mites may be useful on domestic animals if used 10-14 days prior to slaughter or to the export of animals and insecticidal sprays must be ensured in the cattle markets, slaughter houses, dairy, Gawala colonies, sacrificial animals’ sale yards and other animal gathering places. Also insect repellents containing DEET are effective in protecting against ticks.

People should wear protective clothing when working with livestock and to take measures for early and correct removal of ticks. People should ensure examination of diseased animals from veterinary doctors so that transmission of CCHF to human beings could be avoided.