UKHSA confirm Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is now in the UK – symptoms

Doctor explains how to prevent tick bites

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Transmitted by ticks and livestock animals, one patient was diagnosed with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The patient is now receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said: “We are working with NHS EI to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, to assess them as necessary and provide advice.”

Before this case, there have been two cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in the UK – one in 2012, and the other in 2014.

What is Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the viral infection is passed on via infected ticks who bite humans.

The incubation period, before symptoms appear, can take a maximum of nine days.

Considered an “endemic” status in all of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia, outbreaks “constitute a threat to public health”.

The onset of symptoms is “sudden”, with the development of fever, muscle aches, dizziness, neck pain, backache, headache, and sore eyes.

“There may be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on,” the WHO added.

This can be followed by “sharp mood swings and confusion”, as well as: sleepiness, depression and lassitude (lethargy).

The infection can lead to hospitalisation and has a “high case fatality ratio” of up to 40 percent.

While treatment can be successful with the antiviral drug ribavirin, there is no vaccine to reduce the infection in people.

Dr Hopkins added: “It’s important to be aware that Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is usually spread by tick bites in countries where the disease is endemic.

“It does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the [British] public is very low.”

Dr Hopkins assured: “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.”

Public Health England (PHE) stated that the principal carriers of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever are Hyalomma ticks.

Hyalomma ticks “are not established in the UK” and the “virus has never been detected here in a tick”.

People who are travelling to an endemic area, such as Asia or Africa, should protect themselves against ticks.

To do so, you will need to use tick repellents in addition to avoiding areas where ticks are abundant and active.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stated these ticks are “characteristically found in steppe, savannah and scrubland”.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarified that ticks live in “grassy, brushy, or wooded areas”.

While Hyalomma ticks have not been identified in the UK, Britons are still at risk of catching Lyme disease from an infected tick in England.

Ticks are “most active” during the warmer months, from April to September.

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