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Woman In UK Diagnosed With Rare Ebola-Like Disease That Has 40% Fatality Rate

Emily Brown

Published 

Woman In UK Diagnosed With Rare Ebola-Like Disease That Has 40% Fatality Rate

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed a woman in the UK has been diagnosed with a rare Ebola-like disease called Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).

The news was announced today, 25 March, after the patient was diagnosed at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

CCHF is a viral disease that is usually transmitted by ticks and livestock in countries where the disease is endemic, such as in all of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia. The principal carriers are Hyalomma ticks, which are not established in the UK.

The virus has never been detected in a tick here in the UK, the UKHSA explains.

A hyalomma tick, one of the principle carriers of CCHF. Credit: Alamy
A hyalomma tick, one of the principle carriers of CCHF. Credit: Alamy

The woman who has been diagnosed with the disease was found to have recently travelled to Central Asia.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said it is 'important to be aware that CCHF is usually spread by tick bites in countries where the disease is endemic'; that it 'does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low'.

In a press release about the diagnosis, Hopkins continued: "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.

"UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed."

CCHF has a case fatality rate of up to 40 percent, the World Health Organization reports and causes symptoms such as fever, dizziness, headache, sore eyes, sensitivity to light, nausea and diarrhoea. After two to four days, the WHO explains, the agitation may be replaced by sleepiness and depression.

The health agency reports two previous cases of CCHF having been imported into the UK, one in 2012 and one in 2014. Following these cases, there was no evidence of onward transmission from either patient.

The most recent patient is now receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London, with the hospital's Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases, saying: "The Royal Free Hospital is a specialist centre for treating patients with viral infections such as CCHF."

He continued: "Our high-level isolation unit is run by an expert team of doctors, nurses, therapists and laboratory staff and is designed to ensure we can safely treat patients with these kinds of infections."

The agency advises anyone living in or visiting endemic areas to use protective measures to avoid contact with ticks, for example by avoiding areas where ticks are abundant when they are likely to be active, using tick repellent, and checking clothing and skin carefully for ticks.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: World News, UK News, travel, Health

Emily Brown
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