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Tick Bourne Disease

A recent scientific report shows that a deadly tick-bourne disease, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (FHCC), found in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans could spread across Europe as climate change affects migratory patterns of animals carrying disease ridden ticks, while changes in weather patterns across Europe, are creating longer and drier summers.

As such, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has added the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (FHCC) to its top 9 priority diseases list. This list contains diseases that the organisation considers to be the greatest threat to public health.

This is not mere alarmist propaganda as Spain confirmed a case last year, showing that the beast has a European foothold already. However, the report later stated that Spain had detected its first case of FHCC as far back as 2011 and in 2016 a man died after being diagnosed with the disease after being bitten by a tick.

Iraq experienced an explosion of FHCC cases last year, with a total of 212 incidents recorded between the 1st of January and May 2022 (laboratory-confirmed). This year, an estimated 100 cases have been recorded, with 13 deaths.

Most cases of FHCC in humans involved slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians due to their close work with tick carrying animals such as sheep, cows, and goats.

If bitten by an infected tick, the incubation period of the virus in humans can last between 3 and 9 days. People can transmit the virus to each other through blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids of infected people.

People who recover do so on approximately the ninth or tenth day after they have become ill. People who succumb to the disease die, on average, in the second week of illness.

Symptoms include:

Fever, muscle pains, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding into the skin.

How can we protect ourselves?

Although an inactivated vaccine has been developed, it is only used in Eastern Europe on a small scale, and at the moment there is “no safe and effective vaccine widely available for human use,” state the WHO.

However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection and avoid being bitten by ticks.

If you’re in an area prone to ticks — such as the field, lawn parks, and the like — wear long sleeves and trousers, and generally light-colored clothing, so you can easily spot ticks.

There are sprays to kill ticks, as well as repellents and tools to remove them safely. However, be careful: if you try to remove them with your fingers as bits can be left behind, hidden under, or just under the skin.

People who work with livestock and other animals affected by FHCC are encouraged to wear gloves and protective clothing when they touch them.

The disease is passed by B. Hyalomma ticks among others. These ticks appear to be almost black in colour and have russet legs with cream banding.

Another deadly little species just waiting to cause havoc!

Samantha Gannon

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