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Officials in Kirkuk province, Iraq, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, have reported the first human fatality due to the viral infection, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF).

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According to Dr. Sabah Namiq, the head of the public health section at the Kirkuk Health Directorate, the 29-year-old man was believed to have had “interactions with animals” in Taza town in southern Kirkuk.

This is the second infection that has been recorded in a week, the official said. Another man, suspected to have been infected by drinking milk from a sick animal, had been recovered and discharged, according to a Kurdistan24 report.

Iraq has reported some 150 human CCHF cases year to date, including more than 20 deaths.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is a widespread disease caused by a tick-borne virus (Nairovirus) of the Bunyaviridae family. The CCHF virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic fever outbreaks, with a case fatality rate of 10–40%.

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Animals become infected by the bite of infected ticks and the virus remains in their bloodstream for about one week after infection, allowing the tick-animal-tick cycle to continue when another tick bites. Although a number of tick genera are capable of becoming infected with CCHF virus, ticks of the genus Hyalomma are the principal vector.

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The CCHF virus is transmitted to people either by tick bites or through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter. The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, such as agricultural workers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians. Human-to-human transmission is possible.

The virus is widespread in some countries of Africa and Asia, in the Balkans, the Middle East and in the south of the European part of Russia.