Case of deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever detected in UK

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease usually transmitted by ticks and livestock animals in countries where the disease is endemic (Picture: Getty)

A woman in the UK has been diagnosed with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever following travel to Central Asia, health officials said.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCFH) is a viral disease usually transmitted by ticks and livestock animals in countries where the disease is endemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the virus can lead to epidemics and has a high case fatality ratio of 40%.

It is currently endemic in all of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia.

The woman was diagnosed at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said the virus ‘does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low’.

She said the agency was working to contact people who have been in close contact with the woman to assess them and provide advice.

Dr Hopkins added: ‘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.’

Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London, said: ‘The Royal Free Hospital is a specialist center for treating patients with viral infections such as CCHF.

‘Our high level isolation unit is run by an expert team of doctors, nurses, therapists and laboratory staff and is designed to ensure we can safely treat patients with these kind of infections.’

Prior to this case, there have been two cases of CCHF imported to the UK, in 2012 and one in 2014. There was no evidence of onward transmission from either of these cases.

The principal carriers of CCHF are Hyalomma ticks, which are not established in the UK and the virus has never been detected here in a tick.

Symptoms of the virus come on suddenly and include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light.

People can also suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.

Other signs include rash in the mouth and throat, fast heart rate and enlarged lymph nodes.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the affected ticks are in North Africa and Asia and are also present in southern and eastern Europe.

They have been recorded in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine.

Anyone visiting areas where the ticks are found should take protection, the UKHSA said.

This includes avoiding areas where ticks are abundant at times when they are active, using tick repellents and checking clothing and skin carefully for ticks.

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