Congo fever kills at least 14 in Iraq, says ministry

Tick-borne virus spreading again in rural areas this year, after 27 died in 2022

An Iraqi vet sprays insecticide inside a buffalo stockyard in Taji town, north of Baghdad, to combat the disease. EPA
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At least 14 people have died as outbreaks of the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever hit Iraq again this year, the country’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Most deaths from the tick-borne virus were in rural areas, spokesman Saif Al Badr told The National.

On Monday, health authorities registered at least 107 confirmed cases in different parts of the country, he said.

The worst-hit province is Dhi Qar, about 350km south of Baghdad, with 31 confirmed cases and six deaths.

At least 212 people were infected and 27 died last year, he said.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever was first documented in Iraq in 1979 and the virus has been endemic since. The country typically records up to 20 cases a year and one or two deaths.

Authorities blame the unprecedented levels of infections this year on an inadequate oversight over livestock breeding and slaughter.

Health and agricultural authorities have launched campaigns to spray animals and raise awareness on how to avoid the risk of infection.

The virus has a fatality rate of up to 30 per cent. As well as being carried by ticks, it can be transmitted between humans through contact with the blood, secretions or other bodily fluids of an infected person.

It is endemic in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Balkan. No vaccine has been made available yet.

The incubation period is about three to seven days, or less if contracted through a tick bite or a needle.

Most cases are asymptomatic or mild, but severe symptoms can begin suddenly, with a headache, high fever, joint pain, stomach ache and vomiting.

Updated: May 16, 2023, 8:17 AM