There is little to no risk that the virus that causes people to bleed to death will enter the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), the DOH said the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), which is currently blighting Iraq, can cause severe viral fever.
According to the DOH, common symptoms include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes, sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sore throat.
“CCHF is said to be endemic to Africa, the Balkan states, the Middle East, and some northern Asian countries. The DOH sees little to no risk of the virus entering Philippine borders,” the DOH said in a written response to media queries.
The DOH said CCHF is commonly transmitted through tick bites or contact with infected animal blood, tissue, and fluids.
Symptoms are treated with general supportive care, as well as the antiviral drug ribavirin.
The latest report from WHO shows that Iraq has so far reported 97 confirmed cases and 27 fatalities.
Despite this, WHO is not recommending any restriction on travel to and trade with Iraq.
This year, Iraq has recorded 19 deaths among 111 CCHF cases in humans, according to the WHO.
The virus has no vaccine and onset can be swift, causing severe bleeding both internally and externally and especially from the nose.
It causes death in as many as two-fifths of cases, according to medics.
Transmitted by ticks, hosts of the virus include both wild and farmed animals such as buffalo, cattle, goats, and sheep, all of which are common in the Dhi Qar area in Iraq.
“Animals become infected by the bite of infected ticks,” according to the WHO.
“The CCHF virus is transmitted to people either by tick bites or through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter,” it added.
The surge of cases this year has shocked officials since numbers far exceed recorded cases in the 43 years since the virus was first documented in Iraq in 1979.
The numbers are still tiny compared with the Covid-19 pandemic—where Iraq has registered over 25,200 deaths and 2.3 million recorded cases, according to WHO figures—but health workers are worried.
CCHF’s fatality rate is between 10 and 40 percent, the WHO says.
The WHO’s representative in Iraq, Ahmed Zouiten, said there were several “hypotheses” for the country’s outbreak.
They included the spread of ticks in the absence of livestock spraying campaigns during Covid in 2020 and 2021.
And “very cautiously, we attribute part of this outbreak to global warming, which has lengthened the period of multiplication of ticks,” he said.
But “mortality seems to be declining”, he added, as Iraq had mounted a spraying campaign while new hospital treatments had shown “good results.”
Since the virus is “primarily transmitted” to people via ticks on livestock, most cases are among farmers, slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians, the WHO says.
“Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected persons,” it adds.
Alongside uncontrolled bleeding, the virus causes intense fever and vomiting.