Staying extra vigilant


The recent confirmation from health authorities in Balochistan that several doctors and medical staff have been diagnosed with Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) and subsequently shifted to various hospitals in Karachi is a stark reminder of the ongoing public health crisis. The spread of this deadly disease highlights the urgent need for a coordinated effort to combat the virus.
According to news report published on these pages, a dedicated doctor who was infected with Congo virus has died in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. The victim, Dr Shukrullah, had probably got infected while treating a patient in Civil Hospital, Quetta, where a majority of health staff is also believed to have contracted the virus during this time.
Balochistan, being the most affected province, should work on reducing the risk of infection transmission from animals to humans on an emergency basis. The federal government should also extend help to the province to put brakes on the disease. As a first step towards this end, the health staff in Balochistan should stay extra vigilant. The implementation of standard infection control precautions, or following the standard operating procedures (SoPs) are the keys to controlling the disease.
Further, the federal government should provide protective equipment and other necessary means to the Balochistan provincial government to safeguard the health professionals from catching the virus.
CCHF is a perilous disease caused by a tick-borne virus typically found in livestock. It can be transmitted to humans through bites or close contact with infected animals, including handling and slaughtering them. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30% chance of fatality after infection, and symptoms can range from fever, nausea and headache to more severe issues like bleeding, kidney failure and liver failure.
One of the major challenges in addressing CCHF is that infected animals do not exhibit obvious signs of infection, making it a silent killer. Although there is no vaccine for animals, there are crucial preventive measures that can be taken. It is imperative to spread greater awareness about the disease, especially during the Eidul Azha holidays when there is increased human-animal interaction.
Animals should be sprayed with tick repellents, and those handling them should wear protective equipment. Government and health authorities in all provinces must remain vigilant and take necessary steps to control and interrupt the transmission of CCHF. The high disease transmission risk, coupled with the anticipated increased human-animal interaction during Eidul Azha, demands immediate action.
While there may be no vaccine available for animals, the protection and safety of our healthcare workers and the general population are of paramount importance. It is time for a concerted effort to combat the spread of CCHF and ensure that no more lives are lost to this deadly disease. Public health awareness, preventive measures, and government action are our strongest weapons in this battle against CCHF.