What is a Congo virus and how it spreads?

Haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a tick borne viral disease that infects wild and domestic animals, including livestock. Humans can contract this disease by getting bitten by an infected tick living on the host animal or coming into contact with the blood, tissues or fresh meat of the infected animal. Human to human transmission is also possible in case of close contact with the organs, blood or other secretions and bodily fluids of the infected person.  Congo virus does not survive high temperatures, and well-cooked meat does not pose any risk of transmission of the virus. 

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The CCHF virus infects a wide range of domestic and wild animals that serve as reservoirs for the virus. Ticks carry the virus from animal to animal and from animal to human. The most important source for acquisition of the virus by ticks is infected small vertebrate animals on which the ticks feed. Once infected, the tick remains infected through its lifespan. The mature tick transmits the infection to large vertebrates such as livestock (cattle, sheep and goats). Humans acquire the virus from direct contact with their blood or other infected tissues from livestock during this time, or they may become infected from a tick bite. The majority of cases of CCHF have occurred in those involved with the livestock industry, such as agricultural workers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians.

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Symptoms

If you get bitten by an infected tick, or come in close contact of an infected person or animal’s body fluids, seek immediate medical attention if you start showing the following symptoms. These symptoms appear within 1 to 3 days of the transmission and initially resemble symptoms of flu. As the disease progresses, you will most likely experience the following indications High grade fever, Stomach pain, Diarrhoea, Myalgia (muscle aches), Headache, Nausea, Sensitivity to light.

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After 2 days, you may start showing additional symptoms including Excessive sleepiness, Depression, Localized abdominal pain in the upper right side, Rashes on the skin, Jaundice, Severe nosebleeds, Uncontrolled bleeding.Congo Virus has a high fatality rate of up to 40%; thus if suspected, it needs immediate medical attention. If diagnosed late, these symptoms are difficult to control and can lead to organ failure and eventual death. Hence, early intervention is crucial.

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Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever often appears to be a neglected disease, as it usually occurs in remote areas in developing countries. CCHF is one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers with a high CFR and is tick-borne; therefore, its eradication is impossible. The number of patients with CCHF in Turkey has dramatically increased since 2002, in which the first patient with CCHF in Turkey was identified. These facts indicate the urgent need of therapeutics for CCHF.

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Ribavirin has been used as a treatment for patients with CCHF. Unfortunately, the efficacy of ribavirin in the treatment of CCHF has not yet been established conclusively. Owing to the high CFR and relatively small number of patients with CCHF, it is quite difficult to conduct a sophisticated randomized trial to assess the efficacy of ribavirin. Therefore, ribavirin should be used as a treatment of CCHF, if available, and the treatment should be initiated in the early stage of the disease.It is expected that clarification of the pathophysiology of CCHF will facilitate the further development of specific therapeutics against CCHF. The effort for the development of vaccines for CCHF is still limited. One reason might be the lack of a suitable animal model for CCHFV infection. Development of an efficacious vaccine against CCHF is expected.