New strain of tick-borne Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever causes concern

For more than 50 years there has been an increase in tick populations in Europe, which is accompanied by a greater spread of the diseases they transmit. (Illustration © Fotolia Mirkograul)

Covid-19, monkeypox and now… the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever ? A few days ago, scientists at Moscow’s Sechenov University announced the disturbing discovery of a new strain of the disease in southern Russia, the news agency reports TASS.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever? It is a fatal disease in 10 to 40% of cases. If no case has been observed in France, here is what we already know about this virus.

Ticks that cause the disease

It is a disease caused by a “Nairovirus” of the Bunyaviridae family. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is mainly transmitted through to humans ticks and livestock (cattle, sheep or even goats).

Animal infection occurs when bitten by infected ticks. The virus then persists in the bloodstream for about a week. Although a number of tick genera can be infected with the virus, the genus Hyalommma is the main vector.

A WHO report

Where were the cases reported?

The Middle East has been affected by the disease since the late 1970s, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Oman and Pakistan. More recently, cases have appeared in Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran, but also in southern Russia.

The disease has also been detected in Spain and Tunisia. Global warming, which (in particular) would favor the spread of ticks, could partly explain the multiplication of cases.

According to Russian researchers, internal bleeding is the main and most dangerous symptom of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.

To date, there is no vaccine against this disease.

To date, there is no vaccine against the disease. WHO advises that treatment is limited to supportive symptomatic therapy. If you have symptoms, you should see your doctor right away.

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How is Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever transmitted?

The disease is transmitted either through tick bites or through contact with the blood or tissues of infected animals during or immediately after slaughter. Most cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, such as farmers, slaughterhouse workers or veterinarians.

Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or bodily fluids of infected individuals. Nosocomial infections can also occur due to poor sterilization of medical equipment, reuse of needles and contamination of consumables, WHO notes.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

After a tick bite, the incubation period is usually one to three days, up to a maximum of nine days. And the onset of symptoms is abrupt, with fever, myalgia (muscle pain), dizziness, neck stiffness and pain, back pain, headache, eye tenderness, and photophobia (phobia of light).

We sometimes observe, initially, WHO notes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and sore throat, then sudden mood swings and confusion.

Other clinical signs have been reported: tachycardia (increased heart rate), lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes), petechial rash (rash caused by intracutaneous bleeding) on ​​the internal surfaces of the mucous membranes, such as in the mouth, throat and skin.

There are usually signs of hepatitis, and the most severely affected individuals may develop rapid deterioration in kidney function, sudden liver failure, or lung failure from the fifth day of illness.

What is WHO advice?

WHO recommends wearing protective clothing (long sleeves and pants) and light colors so ticks can be easily spotted, using acaricides on clothing and repellents on skin and clothing, and checking for ticks regularly when there are no ticks in the area clothing or skin and remove them carefully if you find them.

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