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Congo fever claims two more lives in Karachi

By Our Correspondent
August 10, 2019

KARACHI: Two more persons died due to Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) at separate health facilities in Karachi on Friday, health officials said, adding that three people had died because of dreaded, tick-borne viral disease in the city in two days.

“Zahid Ahmed, 29-year-old patient from Organi Town who was undergoing treatment for CCHF at an isolation ward at the JPMC, died here on Friday morning. The patient had been brought to JPMC casualty with fever and bleeding from the gums a few days ago.

Doctors suspected hemorrhagic fever and medical tests confirmed that he was infected with Congo Crimean virus,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, while talking to The News.

Separately, an elderly person from the Malir area of the city also succumbed to the complications of Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi. He had been taken to the private health facility on complaints of a high-grade fever and bleeding from nose and mouth. “Haji Din Muhammad, 68, a resident of Mirpurkhas, who worked at a cattle pen in Malir, had been brought to the AKUH Karachi with a high-grade fever and bleeding from nose and mouth. The hospital said the patient died today due to complications of the disease,” said Dr Masood Solangi, director general of health in Sindh, told The News. Sindh health department officials said three people had died due to the tick-borne viral disease in Karachi in two days, as a 15-year-old boy from the Malir area of the city, who was identified as Faiz-ul-Islam, had also died due to the Congo fever during treatment at Dr KM Ruth Pfao Civil Hospital Karachi on Thursday. With two more deaths due to the dreaded viral disease, the number of deaths because of CCHF in the current year rose to nine, health officials said, adding that the emergence of more cases of the viral infection could not be ruled due to the presence of sacrificial animals in the city at the moment.

With thousands of sacrificial animals, including goats, sheep, cows, bulls and camels, in the city on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, health experts asked the people to exercise extreme caution while dealing with the cattle as some of the sacrificial animals could have ticks attached to their bodies, which carry the lethal Congo virus, and warned that during interaction with the animals, the virus could infect healthy people and result in a painful death.

“Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (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. The mortality is around 40 percent, especially when the patients are brought late to tertiary-care health facilities,” Dr Seemin Jamali said, adding that the majority of patients recovered with treatment and discharged from hospitals within days.

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

The movement of animals significantly enhances the risk of the CCHF disease transmission due to the increased human-animal interaction, the NIH advisory says, adding that the CCHF is caused by a tick-borne virus with the case fatality rate ranging from 10 to 40 percent.

Numerous wild and domestic animals, such as 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 percent. Of these cases, more than 70 percent (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.