Case of deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever detected in UK, health chiefs say

25 March 2022, 10:06 | Updated: 25 March 2022, 10:19

People are being advised to use tick repellents where appropriate after a case of the virus was found
People are being advised to use tick repellents where appropriate after a case of the virus was found. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

A case of a potentially deadly tick-borne virus has been identified in England.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the risk to the public is very low after a case of Crimean-Conga haemorrhagic fever was discovered in a woman who had recently travelled to central Asia.

People who contract the illness can have sudden onset symptoms including headache, fever, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain and vomiting.

Severely ill patients suffer rapid kidney failure, sudden liver and heart failure, around five days after falling ill.

The woman was diagnosed at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA said: “It’s important to be aware that Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is usually spread by tick bites in countries where the disease is endemic, it does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low.

“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."

Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London, said: “The Royal Free Hospital is a specialist centre for treating patients with viral infections such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

"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 kind of infections."

There have only ever been two cases of this virus imported to the UK, in 2012 and one in 2014. There was no evidence of onward transmission from either of these cases.

The principal carriers of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever are Hyalomma ticks, which are not established in the UK. The virus has never been detected in a tick.

However people living in or visiting areas where ticks are common are being advised to use personal protective measures to avoid contact, including avoiding areas where ticks are abundant at times when they are active, using tick repellents, and checking clothing and skin carefully for ticks.