Climate change aiding spread of deadly virus in Europe: What is CCHF

  • Europe is currently facing heatwave and wildfires.
  • Also, the rising temperatures have also raised fears of spread of viruses generally not found in colder climates.
  • Recently, Alert has been sounded about the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that it is a tick-borne infection with a high mortality rate.
  • CCHF is endemic to Africa, the Balkan countries, Middle East, and parts of Asia.
  • The first fatality from the disease in Europe was in Spain, in 2016.
  • Scientists are now warning that CCHF, which can kill between 10% and 40% of patients, is spreading northward and westward in Europe.
  • Cases have so far been reported in Spain, Russia and Turkey, and the UK.
  • In India, one person succumbed to CCHF last month in Gujarat, the state that reports the majority of the country’s cases of this disease.

Contraction of the disease

Additionally, during and right after the slaughter of animals, contact with viraemic animal tissues (animal tissue where the virus has entered the bloodstream) may result in an infection.

Threat of the disease

  • Public health services are at risk from CCHF outbreaks since the virus can cause epidemics.
  • It is difficult to prevent and cure, has a high case fatality ratio (10–40%), and may cause epidemics in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Source and transmission of CCHF:

  • Cattle, goats, sheep, and hares are among the animals that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims “act as amplifying hosts for the virus.
  • Humans can contract the disease by coming into touch with infected ticks or animal blood. When infected people come in contact with one another’s infectious blood or bodily fluids, such as saliva and perspiration, CCHF can spread from one person to the next.
  • The ticks can also be hosted by migratory birds, thus carrying the virus over long distances.

Symptoms of CCHF

  • CCHF symptoms include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light, according to the WHO.
  • Early on, there may be significant mood changes and confusion, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach discomfort, and sore throat.
  • The excitement may be replaced after 2-4 days by drowsiness, melancholy, and lassitude.

Cure for the disease

  • There is no vaccine for the virus in either humans or animals, and treatment generally consists of managing symptoms.
  • The WHO states that “the antiviral drug ribavirin has been used to treat CCHF infection with apparent benefit.”

Impact of Climate change on the spread of diseases

  • As temperature patterns are disrupted, pathogens are thriving in geographies that traditionally had a climate hostile to them.
  • The ticks are moving up through Europe due to climate change, with longer and drier summers.
  • Climate change contributes to the spread of diseases in multiple ways, including
  • warmer temperatures expanding the habitat of ticks and other insects and
  • giving them more time to reproduce, the habitat offered by water undergoing changes,
  • animals moving to newer areas and people coming into contact with them.

Climate change and Human Health

  • Beyond their traditional geographic range, infectious illnesses are already being affected by climate change.
  • Often, the absence of global governance, regulations, or a consensus to prevent climate change worsens the cross-border spread of infectious illnesses.
  • As a result, there is a substantial current and future burden on people, animals, and plants, particularly if these infectious diseases lead to widespread epidemics.
  • Due to the consequences of climate change, many diseases are either currently spreading internationally or are very likely to do so.
  • The effects of enacting policies or carrying out interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infectious diseases, as well as studies that could guide future global policy or useful solutions, are very much appreciated.
  • Since all three are frequently interconnected, the infectious diseases addressed in this collection contain both plant and animal diseases in addition to human illnesses.

Illustration of virus transmission: "CCHF Transmission Pathway