Iraq seeing outbreak of nose-bleed fever. Here’s what we know about the deadly disease

New DelhiEdited By: C KrishnasaiUpdated: May 29, 2022, 07:50 PM IST
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The disease called the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever has claimed 19 deaths among 111 cases this year, according to the World Health Organization

Iraq is in the midst of an outbreak of a fever that causes people to bleed to death, according to local media reports.

The disease called the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever has claimed 19 deaths among 111 cases this year, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease has been spreading rapidly in the Iraqi countryside, with the southern province alon recording half of the country’s cases.

According to medics, the virus causes severe bleeding both internally and externally and especially from the nose. As many as two-fifths of the cases die.

"The number of cases recorded is unprecedented," Haidar Hantouche, a health official in Dhi Qar province told the AFP.

The surge in cases this year has shocked officials, since numbers far exceed recorded cases in the 43 years since the virus was first documented in Iraq in 1979.

What do we know about the disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CCHF is caused by infection with a tick-borne virus.

The disease was first found in Crimea in 1944 and given the name Crimean hemorrhagic fever. It was then later recognized in 1969 as the cause of illness in the Congo, thus resulting in the current name of the disease.

It is endemic in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans.

"Animals become infected by the bite of infected ticks," said the WHO.

"The CCHF virus is transmitted to people either by tick bites or through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter," it added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CCHF's fatality rate is between 10 per cent and 40 per cent.

Is there any preventive cure?

The virus has no vaccine and its onset can be swift. CDC said the long-term effects of CCHF infection have not been studied well enough in survivors to determine whether or not specific complications exist. However, recovery is slow.

Main targets—farmers, veterinarians

Since the virus is "primarily transmitted" to people via ticks on livestock, most cases are among farmers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians, the WHO says.

"Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons," it adds.

Alongside uncontrolled bleeding, the virus causes intense fever and vomiting.

Medics fear there may be an explosion of cases following the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in July, when families traditionally slaughter an animal to feed guests.

Slaughterhouses take a hit

The virus has also adversely affected meat consumption in the country, with many butchers saying cattle arriving for slaughter has fallen to half normal levels. "People are afraid of red meat and think it can transmit infection," said Fares Mansour, Director of Najaf Veterinary Hospital.

(With inputs from agencies)


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