Congo fever spreads in Iraq, killing eight people so far

The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through tick bites or livestock animals and there is no vaccine available

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Iraq is on high alert after an unusually high number of cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, which has killed eight people so far this year.

Authorities said one person died on Friday as cases of the virus spread to the country's north, AFP reported.

The virus, which has a death rate of up to 40 per cent, is primarily transmitted to humans through tick bites or infected livestock, said the World Health Organisation.

Human-to-human transmission can occur as a result of contact with the blood, organs, secretions or other bodily fluids of infected people, the WHO said.

There is no vaccine available for people or animals.

Iraq has registered at least 40 cases in different parts of the country this year, Health Ministry spokesman Saif Al Badr told The National.

“We are seeing new levels this year, higher than the normal ones, but are still far from calling it a state of epidemic as cases are limited,” Mr Al Badr said.

The country normally records up to 20 cases a year, of which one or two result in death, he said.

More than half of the confirmed cases so far, 23, and five of the deaths were recorded in the southern province of Thi Qar, Mr Al Badr said.

Half of those infected had recovered and left hospital, he said.

Iraqi health authorities have scrambled to raise public awareness of the disease by issuing guidelines on how to reduce the risk of infection, using posters, social media posts and programmes on media outlets.

Iraq lacks adequate oversight of livestock breeding and slaughter. Cattle, sheep and goats are usually seen roaming in residential areas and their slaughter is not confined to slaughterhouses.

The WHO says Congo fever is endemic to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans.

Updated: May 07, 2022, 12:33 PM