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Rare Case Of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever Pops Up In Spain

The WHO estimates that Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever has a case fatality rate of 10 to 40 percent.

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockJul 25 2022, 12:55 UTC
Scanning electron micrograph of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) viral particles (yellow) budding from the surface of cultured epithelial cells from a patient.
Scanning electron micrograph of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) viral particles (yellow) budding from the surface of cultured epithelial cells from a patient. Image credit: NIAID

A man has been hospitalized in Spain after falling sick with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a rare but deadly tick-borne disease that causes an array of unpleasant symptoms from severe bruising and nosebleeds to uncontrolled bleeding.

The middle-aged man was first admitted to a hospital in the northwest Spanish city of León when he showed symptoms of the disease after being bitten by a tick, Reuters reports. When the severity of the situation came to light, he was airlifted to another hospital on a military plane. 

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The patient reportedly remains in a stable condition, but experts are continuing to keep a close on him. 

The symptoms of CCHF can hit hard and fast. Initial symptoms include headache, high fever, joint pain, stomach pain, vomiting, dizziness, and sensitivity to light, but the disease can progress to cause sleepiness, depression, and extreme tiredness.

As you can probably tell by the term “haemorrhagic” in its name, CCHF can also lead to problems with blood vessels haemorrhaging. This appears in the form of a rash caused by bleeding into the skin in the mouth and throat. People may also experience severe nosebleeds to uncontrolled bleeding at infection sites.

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The World Health Organization estimates that CCHF has a case fatality rate of 10 to 40 percent. As it stands, there is no vaccine against the infection available. It can be transmitted between humans via blood or bodily fluids.

The disease is caused by infection with a virus (Nairovirus) that lives within hard-bodied ticks. These ticks are often found living on a number of different wild and farmyard animals, such as cattle, goats, sheep, and hares, which can help the infection spread. This means that people who work with animals or spend more time in the great outdoors are a slightly higher risk of catching the virus than others. 

The disease was first identified in the Crimea in 1944, but it was later recognized in 1969 as the cause of an illness in the Congo, hence its double-barrelled name. Today, it’s primarily found in Eastern Europe, but cases are known to occur in north-western China, central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and the Mediterranean.


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