Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever: What is the deadly virus that already killed two people?

Authorities are warning people to be careful as two people have died from an eye-bleeding virus after visiting cattle markets. Here's what you should know.

Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever deadly virus
© BSIP / Contributeur
Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever deadly virus

In northern Pakistan, locals are being told to put on protective masks after two people died following their visit to cattle markets in the area. Authorities are now investigating the source of the contamination to avoid another deadly pandemic. Here's what you need to know.

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Two people have died from Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever

Two locals have died from a deadly virus called the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, a disease which literally makes your eyes bleed to death. It was picked up last year in the French Pyrénées-Orientales region, right at the north-eastern border with Spain. French authorities immediately took the issue seriously and said, in October 2023:

No autochthonous cases (infections caught in the country) have been detected in humans in France to date.

The two people have been named as Imran, a butcher from Hazro, and Mrs Khiran from Jund. They both came from the city of Attock and died at the Benazir Bhutto General Hospital on 3 May and 18 May respectively.

What is CCHF ?

According to the World Health Organization:

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a viral haemorrhagic fever usually transmitted by ticks.
It can also be contracted through contact with viraemic animal tissues (animal tissue where the virus has entered the bloodstream) during and immediately post-slaughter of animals.

WHO also explains that the virus can lead to a deadly pandemic, with a high 'case fatality ratio', meaning about 10 to 40% of people affected by the virus eventually die. An epidemic would be 'difficult to prevent and treat'.

Authorities are investigating the virus

The city of Attock has been on lockdown since, with authorities spraying antibacterial solution from door-to-door and cleaning out every corner of the town. All animals brought into the area's several cattle markets are being thoroughly checked, and every animal coming in with an infection is forbidden from entering the markets.

According to Dr Naveeda Sehar Zaidi, the livestock director, check points and medical points have been set up across eleven cattle markets. He also said animals being brought into the markets are being sprayed with an antibacterial solution, which is reportedly not harmful to humans. Dr Zaidi urges people who visit the markets to avoid touching the animals, and to wear light-coloured clothes. People should also avoid bringing their children with them, and put on protective face masks.

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Sources used:

The Daily Star: Deadly eye-bleeding virus kills two as locals told to 'mask up' at cattle markets

World Health Organization: Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever: Should we be worried about this 'killer' virus that's spreading? Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever: Should we be worried about this 'killer' virus that's spreading?