Health officials in Pakistan have put the death tally at 20 so far this year due to the tick-borne viral disease, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), according to a report in The Nation today.

Hyalomma tick Image/ CDC
Hyalomma tick
Image/ CDC

This total includes 12 fatalities from Balochistan and five from Karachi. The remaining cases were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Bahawalpur.

Local hospitals have been made aware of the situation and isolation wards for CCHF patients have been established, hospital staff has received training for these patients and procedures were updated.

According to the WHO, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) 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%.

CCHF is endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asian countries south of the 50th parallel north – the geographical limit of the principal tick vector. The hosts of the CCHF virus include a wide range of wild and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

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.

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.