On the 25th of August 2016, a 62-year-old man from Madrid, Spain, died from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF). This has caused alarm bells to ring.
The news reached the media and suddenly Spaniards were discovering about an illness that almost nobody had heard about.
Having said that, we have to remember that Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever isn’t new. In fact, it has appeared in Spain before.
At the present, another person has contracted this disease: the nurse that took care of the 62-year-old patient is now in critical condition. Furthermore, the nurse is now in isolation. In fact, she’s in a special unit that is best equipped to treat this infectious disease spread by ticks.
Despite the shocking news, experts have told Spaniards to remain calm. Moreover, although many have compared this disease to Ebola, there’s no reason to come to this unjustified conclusion.
Firstly, and for Spaniards’ peace of mind, they must remember that one thing has nothing to do with the other. In these cases, the most important thing is to have all the available information in order to know what to expect.
Below, we’ll provide the most pertinent information about Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, in case it spreads to other places like the USA.
What is Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever?
The World Heath Organization (WHO) defines this disease a type of viral hemorrhagic fever, which has a fatality rate of up to 40%.
We know the following details about Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever:
- It’s a type of virus that originates from the Bunyaviridae family.
- It is spread by ticks, mosquitoes, rodents and also through direct contact with infected livestock.
- It is transmitted between people only when there is direct contact with the blood, body secretions or other body fluids of the infected.
Airborne contamination has been ruled out. In other words, this disease is not transmitted through the air, but through liquids. This fact explains why the nurse that took care of the infected patient contracted this virus.
- Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever is an endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia.
It’s common in countries located below 50 degrees north latitude.
What are the symptoms of this illness?
There is an incubation period of 3 days after a person is bitten by a tick or after they touch the blood or other fluids of an animal infected with this virus.
- After this, the infected individual starts to experience fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, dizziness, neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.
- Other symptoms are liver and spleen swelling (hepatomegaly), which also includes swelling of the lymph nodes, hemorrhages, a high temperature and confusion.
As we’ve mentioned before, the mortality rate of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever is about 40%. Many patients die in the second week after contracting this illness, but those who get better already show positive signs of recovery by the 9th day.
Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine for this illness. Nonetheless, there are very few cases where this disease fully develops.
Should I be worried?
The short answer is no. As experts have told us, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is not easily transmitted. Furthermore, this is not its first appearance in countries like Spain.
- For instance, in 2011 the pathogen present in this illness was found in a population of deer in Cáceres, Spain.
- In addition, we must remember that this virus only fully develops in human beings and not in animals. Therefore, we don’t see any visible symptoms in animals such as deer, cows, pigs, rats etc.
- This is why the group of people most at risk of contracting this disease are those who work in direct contact with livestock.
- Nevertheless, given that there are veterinary checks on farms, it’s not very common for this virus to spread far.
In fact, none of us is often in direct contact with bodily secretions and excretions. However, health professionals and farm and slaughterhouse workers are undoubtedly at a higher risk of contracting this disease.
In sum, we must remain calm, and simply keep ourselves informed about Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.
How did this virus reach Spain?
Medical professionals from Hospital Carlos III in Madrid, the same hospital that is looking after the infected nurse, say that viruses are already a daily risk that we face.
For example, international trips, animal importation, and the globalized world we live in create an environment in which pathogens and infectious agents from other countries can easily move.
However, medical authorities have prepared well for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.
For instance, currently they have followed all protocols and have put the 190 people who have possibly been in contact with the infected patient under investigation.
Can Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever be treated?
As we pointed out at the beginning, there is no vaccine for this virus. However, it can be treated.
- Doctors are using ribavirin to treat the infection and the results have been highly satisfactory, so far.
Finally, it’s important to point out that the patient mentioned at the beginning of this article may have died because of a previous health condition or a very weak immune system.
As far as we’re concerned, you should remain calm and informed.