NASIRIYAH, Iraq: Spraying a cow with pesticides, well being staff goal blood-sucking ticks on the coronary heart of Iraq’s worst detected outbreak of a fever that causes individuals to bleed to demise.
The sight of the well being staff, wearing full protecting equipment, is one which has turn into widespread within the Iraqi countryside, because the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever spreads, leaping from animals to people.
This yr, Iraq has recorded 19 deaths amongst 111 CCHF instances in people, in accordance with the Phrase Well being Group.
The virus has no vaccine and onset might be swift, inflicting extreme bleeding each internally and externally and particularly from the nostril. It causes demise in as many as two-fifths of instances, in accordance to medics.
“The variety of instances recorded is unprecedented,” mentioned Haidar Hantouche, a well being official in Dhi Qar province.
A poor farming area in southern Iraq, the province accounts for almost half of Iraq’s instances.
In earlier years, instances could possibly be counted “on the fingers of 1 hand,” he added.
Transmitted by ticks, hosts of the virus embrace each wild and farmed animals resembling buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep, all of that are widespread in Dhi Qar.
Within the village of Al-Bujari, a workforce disinfects animals in a secure subsequent to a home the place a lady was contaminated. Sporting masks, goggles and overalls, the employees spray a cow and her two calves with pesticides.
A employee shows ticks which have fallen from the cow and been gathered right into a container.
“Animals turn into contaminated by the chew of contaminated ticks,” in accordance with the World Well being Group.
“The CCHF virus is transmitted to individuals both by tick bites or by contact with contaminated animal blood or tissues throughout and instantly after slaughter,” it provides.
The surge of instances this yr has shocked officers, since numbers far exceed recorded instances within the 43 years because the virus was first documented in Iraq in 1979.
In his province, solely 16 instances leading to seven deaths had been recorded in 2021, Hantouche mentioned. However this yr Dhi Qar has recorded 43 instances, together with eight deaths.
The numbers are nonetheless tiny in contrast with the COVID-19 pandemic — the place Iraq has registered over 25,200 deaths and a couple of.3 million recorded instances, in accordance with WHO figures — however well being staff are fearful.
Endemic in Africa, Asia, the Center East and the Balkans, CCHF’s fatality fee is between 10 and 40 %, the WHO says.
The WHO’s consultant in Iraq, Ahmed Zouiten, mentioned there have been a number of “hypotheses” for the nation’s outbreak.
They included the unfold of ticks within the absence of livestock spraying campaigns throughout Covid in 2020 and 2021.
And “very cautiously, we attribute a part of this outbreak to international warming, which has lengthened the interval of multiplication of ticks,” he mentioned.
However “mortality appears to be declining,” he added, as Iraq had mounted a spraying marketing campaign whereas new hospital therapies had proven “good outcomes.”
Because the virus is “primarily transmitted” to individuals by way of ticks on livestock, most instances are amongst farmers, slaughterhouse staff and veterinarians, the WHO says.
“Human-to-human transmission can happen ensuing from shut contact with the blood, secretions, organs or different bodily fluids of contaminated individuals,” it provides.
Alongside uncontrolled bleeding, the virus causes intense fever and vomiting.
Authorities have put in place disinfection campaigns and are cracking down on abattoirs that don’t comply with hygiene protocols. A number of provinces have additionally banned livestock motion throughout their borders.
Close to Najaf, a metropolis within the south, slaughterhouses are monitored by the authorities.