A rare case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever has been confirmed in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
It is only the third time a case has ever been identified in the UK. In the two previous cases, reported in 2012 and 2014, there was no evidence of onward transmission and the virus was safely contained.
The patient had recently returned from travelling in Central Asia where she is believed to have contracted the infection. After first being diagnosed at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, she is now receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London, which has a specialist unit prepared for dealing with rare and unusual infectious diseases.
Fortunately, the wider risk to the public is low, says the UKSHA.
“It’s important to be aware that CCHF [Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever] is usually spread by tick bites in countries where the disease is endemic, it does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low,” Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said in a press release.
"We are working with NHS EI to contact the individuals who have had close contact with the case prior to confirmation of their infection, to assess them as necessary and provide advice," Dr Hopkins continued.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is endemic in parts of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia where it lives within a wide range of animals, including cows, sheep, goats, and ostriches. It’s a viral haemorrhagic fever usually transmitted by Hyalomma ticks. After a short incubation period, symptoms of the infection can hit hard, starting with a fever, dizziness, and a headache while progressing to cause extreme sleepiness, depression, and abdominal pain.
There is no vaccine against the infection and it can prove fatal, with a case fatality rate ranging from 10 to 40 per cent.