Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) has killed at least 20 people in Turkey, in the largest outbreak of it ever reported since it was identified in 1944, say the authorities. According to the experts more cases of the Ebola-like disease are bound to be reported. By 4 August, 242 cases of this disease were reported.
Six provinces in the Black Sea and Central Anatolia region: Tokat, Sivas, Gumushane, Amasya, Yozagat and Corum have been affected by this disease. According to the authorities, no cases have been reported in tourist areas along the Mediterranean coast.
CCHF is primarily an animal disease, but can also affect humans. It is endemic in parts of Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe and is transmitted by ticks, which thrive on sheep and cattle. The disease affects mainly farm and slaughterhouse workers in the livestock industry as they come in contact with the virus. Droplets from sneezing, blood and saliva from infected people can transmit the virus. A steep decrease in platelets, which functions in blood clotting, is a characteristic of this disease.. Without immediate treatment by antivirus drugs and platelet replacement, victims can bleed to death.
No vaccine against the disease has been found so far.It causes dizziness, high fever, muscle pain and vomiting. In severe cases, a body rash and bleeding from the bowels and gums, often accompanied by hepatitis and pulmonary failure, follow.
"We will unfortunately keep seeing cases at least until September, when the virus starts to slow down because of the cold weather," said Dr Onder Ergonul, a professor at Marmara University.
A nurse treating Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever patients died last week, after being accidentally infected by a needle. Four health care workers have been infected till date, though there has been no report of the virus spreading in hospitals.
"There have been large outbreaks of this virus before, but we are concerned about the size of this particular outbreak in Turkey," said Dr. Bernardus Ganter, the World Health Organization's Regional Adviser for Communicable Diseases in the European Region.
"We are reassured that the outbreak appears limited to only one part of Turkey, in Anatolia," said Ergonul. More than 90 percent of cases have been reported in people who have had direct contact with animals, according to Ergonul.
Turkish authorities have ordered stronger surveillance for the disease across the country in an attempt to control the outbreak, and also to educate the population about how the risks of contracting the disease can be reduced by avoiding contact with ticks.
Control of tick population is another area being looked upon by veterinarians and entomologists.
Turkey has enough expertise in treating patients as it has witnessed several outbreaks of CCHF.
WHO is willing to send teams to the area if required and has been in frequent contact with the Turkish Ministry of Health. Mr.Ganter said the transmission season would last till October.