Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever: symptoms of viral disease found in UK, is it contagious, should we worry?
The viral illness is usually transmitted by ticks and livestock animals in countries where the disease is endemic
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A case of a Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever has been identified in the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
A woman is receiving specialist treatment for the viral illness at the Royal Free Hospital in London and had recently travelled to Central Asia, where the disease is endemic.
Is the disease contagious?
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is usually transmitted by ticks and livestock animals and can be caught from contact with infected blood or tissues from an animal or person with the disease.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said the virus “does not spread easily between people”, meaning “the overall risk to the public is very low”.
This is the third known case of the fever in the UK, with prior cases being reported in 2013 and 2014, both of which did not spread.
Dr Hopkins said the UKHSA is working to contact people who have been in close contact with the woman to assess them and provide advice.
She added: “UKHSA and the NHS have well-established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed.”
Where is the disease most common?
A type of tick known as Hyalomma tick is the main carrier of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
These are not established in the UK and the virus has never been detected by ticks in the UK.
The UKHSA advises that people take precautions when visiting areas where the ticks carrying the disease are found to minimise the risk of infection.
This includes avoiding areas where ticks are abundant at times when they are active, using tick repellents and checking clothing and skin carefully for ticks.
The affected ticks are located in North Africa and Asia and are also present in southern and eastern Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
They have been recorded in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever can come on quite suddenly after infection, typically appearing within a few days.
The illness can cause a fever, muscle aches, dizziness, neck and pain stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light.
Some people may also suffer with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and a sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.
Other signs can include a rash in the mouth and throat, fast heart rate and enlarged lymph nodes.
Around 30% of patients infected die of the disease, usually in the second week of infection, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In patients who recover, improvement generally begins on the ninth or tenth day after the onset of illness.
Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London, added: “The Royal Free Hospital is a specialist centre for treating patients with viral infections such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
“Our high-level isolation unit is run by an expert team of doctors, nurses, therapists and laboratory staff and is designed to ensure we can safely treat patients with these kind of infections.”
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