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July 29, 2019

Casualty toll of Congo virus reaches six after recent death


July 29, 2019

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), commonly known as Congo virus, has claimed another life in Karachi as a 27-year old man from the Landhi area succumbed to the complications of the tick-borne viral disease at a private hospital a couple of days back, said officials of the Sindh health department on Sunday.

“Fahim Ahmed, 27, was a labourer at a cattle farm who had gone to Punjab for the purchase of animals earlier this week. On return, he developed high grade fever, myalgia and bleeding from nose and taken to Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) where he died during treatment”, a health official said.

With the latest death, the number of deaths due to CCHF in Karachi in 2019 have risen to six, officials said, adding that three of the deceased had come to the city from Quetta and the other three were local residents of the city.

CCHF is a lethal viral infection that is transmitted to humans from animals, especially cattle and livestock. Patients are kept in isolation wards to prevent other patients, doctors and paramedics from contracting the viral infection.

NIH advisory

In view of the extensive movement of sacrificial animals in the country ahead of Eidul Azha, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has issued an advisory, calling for different stakeholders, including individuals and animal health care authorities, to take timely steps for the prevention and control of Congo virus during the next few months.

The movement of animals significantly enhances the risk of CCHF disease transmission due to the increased human-animal interaction. CCHF is caused by a tick-borne virus with the case fatality rate ranging from 10 to 40 per cent. Numerous wild and domestic animals, such as cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep, are silent carriers of this virus and adult ticks get infected by feeding on these animals.

CCHF cases have been reported from almost all geographical regions of Pakistan. Since 2015, a total of 643 laboratory confirmed cases across Pakistan have been reported to the NIH with a mortality rate of around 25 per cent. Of these cases, more than 70 per cent (460) were reported from Balochistan, followed by Sindh and Punjab.

Health officials in Karachi said last month three people, including a woman, had died due to CCHF)in Karachi. They called for collaborative efforts to prevent more deaths after the arrival of sacrificial animals in the city.

An official maintained that around 11 nine CCHF positive patients had been brought to Karachi’s public and private hospitals since January 1, 2019, of whom six died while five were successfully treated and discharged.

With the establishment of eight legal and several illegal cattle markets in Karachi today, health department officials fear that more CCHF cases could emerge in the city and have advised the hospitals and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to take preventive measures at the earliest to save precious lives.

“The commissioner Karachi has allowed the establishment of eight cattle markets in Karachi for Eid-ul-Azha this year while several illegal cattle markets would also be established in the city, where sacrificial animals from the entire country would be brought for sale. We fear a surge in CCHF cases if strict preventive measures are not adopted by the health and KMC authorities,” said Dr Kamran Rizvi, an official of the health department.

He maintained that it was the responsibility of the KMC to spray every animal and vehicle bringing sacrificial animals to Karachi with insecticides so that ticks could be eliminated. He also urged the media to make the people aware of the preventives measures.

“People should wear gloves and masks while visiting the cattle markets and inspecting the animals. Children should be discouraged from visiting the cattle markets and touching the sacrificial animals. Sacrificial animals should be sprayed with insecticides to get them rid of ticks that carry the Congo virus,” Dr Rizvi added.

In order to prevent spread of CCHF in Karachi and save precious lives, the health department of the KMC has asked the veterinary department to take immediate measures to prevent the entry of infected animals into Karachi and in this regard deploy teams of veterinary experts at the cattle markets and entry points.

“I have written a letter to the veterinary department of the KMC for the deployment of teams of veterinary experts at the cattle markets and the city’s entry points to thwart the arrival of infected animals in Karachi,” said Dr Birbal Genani, senior director, health and medical services of the KMC.

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