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Vector-borne diseases

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a tick-borne viral disease that kills 30% of infected people.

The virus is transmitted to people either from tick-bites or through contact with blood or tissues of infected animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and ostriches.

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

The virus occurs in Africa, the Balkans and Asia.

Onset of symptoms is sudden, with fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light. There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion. Other signs include a faster heart rate, a rash, enlarged lymph nodes and liver and kidney failure.

More than one third of those infected die within the second week of illness.

The main approach to treating Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is treating symptoms. The antiviral drug ribavirin has been shown to be effective.

There is currently no safe and effective vaccine widely available for human use.

The best way to reduce infection in people is to control tick infestations and prevent tick-bites. People handling animals during slaughtering or butchering should wear protective clothing and the animals should be treated with pesticides two weeks before the slaughter.

Health workers should follow WHO recommendations for infection control when caring for people with suspected Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.