New cases of killer virus multiplying across Europe ‘highly likely’ to reach UK

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    Experts have warned new cases of a killer virus spreading across Europe could soon hit the UK.

    An urgent health warning has been issued for what has been described as "the current biggest threat to public health" over new cases of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF).

    Several cases have already been reported in Spain with insiders who spoke to Parliament's Science, Innovation and Technology Committee revealing it was "highly likely" there could soon be cases in the UK.

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    The disease is caused by Nairovirus, a condition spread by ticks, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) has a fatality rate of between 10 and 40%.

    Experts have warned the disease could be expanding out of its usual territories as it is usually found in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia and instead moving towards the likes of Britain, Spain and France due to climate change.

    James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said CCHF could find its way to the UK "through our ticks, at some point".

    WHO noted CCHF was among its nine "priority diseases", a system that lays bare the biggest public health risks.

    Symptoms of CCHF

    WHO said the onset of symptoms is sudden, with fever, myalgia, (muscle ache), dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and photophobia (sensitivity to light).

    There may also be nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and a sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.

    After two to four days, the agitation may be replaced by sleepiness, depression and lassitude, and the abdominal pain may localize to the upper right quadrant, with detectable hepatomegaly (liver enlargement).

    Other clinical signs include tachycardia (fast heart rate), lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes), and a petechial rash (a rash caused by bleeding into the skin) on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth and throat, and on the skin.

    Severely ill patients may experience rapid kidney deterioration, sudden liver failure or pulmonary failure after the fifth day of illness.

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    The mortality rate from CCHF is approximately 30%, with death occurring in the second week of illness. In patients who recover, improvement generally begins on the ninth or 10th day after the onset of illness.

    Reported deaths

    Iraq was reportedly in a major battle with the disease last year, with 212 incidents recorded between January 1 and May 22. Of those, 169 were reported between April and May alone.

    Agence France-Presse added in May that almost 100 additional cases and 13 deaths were so far in 2023 attributed to the toll in Iraq.

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