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Congo fever toll mounts to six as another death reported

By M. Waqar Bhatti
September 22, 2017

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) has claimed another life in Karachi this month, bringing the total deaths due to the tick-borne viral disease to six in the country this year.

Fifty-two-year-old Syed Ghafoor Shah, a resident of Mujahid Colony in Orangi Town, was brought to the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) on the night of September 10 in an unstable condition, the health facility’s spokesman, Anjum Rizvi, told The News on Thursday.

Rizvi said Shah was tested positive for Congo fever the following day, adding that the patient was brought in with a severe headache, high-grade fever, bleeding and other complications, and he died on September 12 due to multiple organ failure.

No more details of the deceased were released by the hospital’s administration, but his relatives said he fell sick following Eidul Azha after helping with slaughtering animals in his locality.

They said Shah had complained of a fever and headache and initially avoided getting treated, but was compelled to get admitted at the LNH when his condition worsened.

Sindh Health Department officials confirmed that Congo fever had claimed six lives in the country this year: four Quetta residents died at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) and one Karachi resident each at the South City Hospital and the LNH.

This September has proved to be the deadliest month of the year as regards Congo fever: two Karachi residents and one from Quetta died at hospitals in the city, while around a dozen more were admitted to different health facilities after testing positive for the CCHF virus.

A couple of days ago a 30-year-old man, a resident of Adam Town in DHA Phase-I near Azam Basti, had died at the South City Hospital due to Congo fever after contracting the CCHF virus from a goat brought to Karachi from Hub tehsil of Balochistan’s Lasbela district.

Abdullah Kakar from Quetta died at the AKUH on September 13, 60-year-old Pir Muhammad Gul from Quetta’s Satellite Town on August 13, 25-year-old Najeebullah Mullahkhail on May 13 and 15-year-old Shakira Abdul Karim from Satellite Town on April 9.

Congo fever is a highly contagious disease with a mortality rate of at least 40 per cent. The CCHF bug often infects people who deal with livestock and cattle, as the tick carrying the deadly bug is often found on such animals.

The health department’s official record states that around 50 people tested positive for CCHF this year after they were brought to various hospitals in the metropolis, of which six died and the remaining were discharged following full recovery.

The health authorities said that majority of the Congo fever cases were brought in from Quetta and most of the patients were Satellite Town residents, adding that all of them were engaged in trade, transportation, slaughtering and dealing of cattle in Balochistan and Karachi.

Gastroenterologist Dr Shahid Ahmed explains that CCHF is caused by a tick that is locally known as “chichri”, which attaches itself to the bodies of cattle and dogs. “When a healthy person comes into contact with the infected animal, its blood or any other secretion, the virus infects the healthy person and makes him sick.”

Ahmed says CCHF is a highly lethal and contagious disease that causes high-grade fever, extreme headaches and bleeding from the nose, gums and internal organs and in urine, as the platelets of the affected persons drop rapidly.

“Awareness is the key to prevent contracting this disease, and people should be made aware that this disease can be avoided by adopting some precautionary measures. “The government should arrange spraying pesticides for sacrificial and other cattle so that lives of people dealing with livestock could be saved.”

The province’s health authorities have also been focusing on counseling for family members of people who have fallen victim to Congo fever.  Following the death of Naseeb Khan in DHA Phase 1, a team of the Sindh health department led by District Officer (Preventive) Dr Kamran Rizvi had visited the family of the victim to inquire about their health and to verify whether any of them were developing symptoms associated with the deadly disease.