Express press service
NEW DELHI: India has reported two cases, including the death of a 55-year-old woman, of the deadly nosebleed fever, which is seeing an alarming rise in Iraq, where at least 18 people have died.
But nosebleed fever or Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), which causes a high death rate of almost 2 in 5, did not lead to an outbreak, as India is fully equipped to handle the virus which can lead to an outbreak, according to top scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV), which is a reference laboratory for the diagnosis of CCHF.
The two cases were reported from Bhavnagar in Gujarat in March and April respectively, Dr Pragya Yadav, scientist and group leader of NIV maximum containment laboratory, Pune, told this newspaper.
The 55-year-old died of the viral disease, which causes rapid and severe internal and external bleeding in infected patients, including from the nose, in April.
A housewife, she used to tend cattle in her home and it was later discovered that she was infected from the tick bite. Later samples taken from his home revealed that cattle were also infected, Yadav said.
The first case in India was reported in March in a 39-year-old man, a construction worker, who survived. He raised cattle at home.
“Both cases were quickly detected thanks to India’s rapid and active surveillance system,” said Yadav, who was recently awarded for her work in developing the Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin. “The viral disease has been controlled and contained and there is no need to panic.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is mainly transmitted to humans by ticks and farm animals. Human-to-human transmission can occur through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.
It is endemic throughout Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia. It is difficult to prevent and treat the viral disease.
According to the Director of ICMR-NIV, Dr. Priya Abraham, India is fully prepared to deal with any outbreak of CCHF. “We have done extensive research and surveillance to understand disease burden and transmission dynamics,” she said.
As India has reported outbreaks of CCHF since 2011, mainly from Gujarat and Rajasthan, viral haemorrhagic fever screening and surveillance is an ongoing activity.
A total of 128 cases and 54 deaths have been reported in Gujarat and Rajasthan since 2011 in the country, said Yadav, who was part of the original science team that helped with the early isolation and enhanced research of the contacts and disease containment when the first outbreak occurred in 2011.
The last severe outbreak was reported in 2019 when maximum number of virus infections were reported in Gujarat and Rajasthan with a 50% fatality rate.
Surveillance at the airport is very high, given the unprecedented rate at which the virus has been spreading in Iraq since January. It was the vigil that also helped Indian authorities track two imported cases – one in 2016 (from Oman to Gujarat) and the second in 2018 when an infected man from Dubai returned to Kerala, Yadav said.
The institute performed laboratory screening for CCHF for humans, animals and ticks.
The availability of BSL-4 facilities has also helped to carry out “rapid diagnosis of suspected cases” across the country.
The institute has developed indigenous technologies that have not only contributed to the rapid diagnosis of suspected CCHF cases; but also rendered great help in his monitoring of humans, livestock and ticks in the country, Abraham said.
She said they also carried out a survey and found that the virus existed in high proportion in the animal population of Gujarat for the past 30 to 40 years.
Later, another nationwide survey was conducted with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), where samples were taken from cattle, sheep and goats from 22 states and one territory of The union. The results also showed the prevalence of this virus in all these areas.
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