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August 21, 2018

Congo fever claims life of 23-year-old man


August 21, 2018

The tick-borne viral Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever claimed another life in Karachi early on Monday morning, said officials of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and the Sindh Health Department.

“Salman, son of Abdur Rasheed, a 23-year-old resident of New Karachi, who was brought to the JPMC’s emergency with bruises on his body on Saturday, died early on Monday morning during treatment,” Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of the health facility told The News.

The health department’s officials claimed that so far this year 47 patients have tested positive for Congo fever in the province, including those who were brought to hospitals in Karachi from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Of these 47 patients, seven have died due to complications of the viral infection, they said.

The JPMC’s Dr Seemin said Salman was admitted to an isolation ward after it was confirmed that he was afflicted with Congo fever, adding that the man was provided supportive and anti-viral treatment but he could not survive the lethal infection.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a tick-borne, potentially lethal, viral disease with a mortality rate of 30 per cent to 40 per cent and usually affecting people who come into contact with livestock and other animals.

Salman was the seventh patient who lost his life at the hands of Congo fever in Karachi and the third to have died due to the tick-borne viral infection at the JPMC, said the health department’s officials, adding that of the seven deceased, four were from Karachi and the remaining from Balochistan.

Talking about the latest victim of Congo fever, Dr Seemin Jamali said the condition of the patient was not very good due to extremely low platelets and total leukocyte (white blood) cells, adding that he succumbed to the lethal infection despite being provided supportive care and anti-viral therapy.

She said Salman was the eighth patient who was tested positive for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever at the JPMC, adding that three of them died due to complications of the viral disease. “The survival rate of the Congo fever patients brought to the JPMC is very high if they are brought during the initial stages of contracting the disease,” she said.

She added that people should immediately approach any tertiary-care health facility in case of a sudden onset of high fever, vomiting, muscle aches and red spots on the body as well as bleeding from the mouth or nose.

“Animal herders, livestock handlers and slaughterhouse workers are at greater risk of contracting this disease, but nowadays a lot of people are handling sacrificial animals so they should also take extra precautionary measures while dealing with animals,” she advised.

Dr Zafar Mehdi, the focal person dealing with Naegleria fowleri, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and dengue fever cases in the province, said they had already issued a Congo fever advisory to the people well before the arrival of sacrificial animals in the province.He added that the health department’s officials and veterinary experts have also been inspecting sacrificial animals to prevent people from contracting the viral disease.

He urged the people dealing with sacrificial animals to be extra vigilant while handling livestock in the current season as well as take all the precautionary measures to prevent themselves and their children from contracting Congo virus infection.

Infectious diseases specialist from the Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Bushra Jamil, said Congo fever could be contracted from a tick present on the skin of cattle or other animals or from already infected animals.

She warned that infected animals show no symptoms of the disease so the people should take precautionary measures while dealing with sacrificial animals these days.

In a recorded video message ahead of Eidul Azha, Dr Bushra said the people dealing with livestock and sacrificial animals should be extra vigilant. She also urged that children should be kept away from animals as much as possible.

According to her, the specialties to diagnose Congo fever are present only at two facilities in Pakistan: the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi and the National Institute of Health in Islamabad.

Dr Bushra added that in case of showing signs of high fever with body aches, a headache, bleeding from the nose or mouth or vomiting, the patient should be taken to a tertiary-care health facility.

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