Woman in UK diagnosed with potentially fatal Ebola-like disease Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

A woman is receiving specialist care in London for a potentially fatal Ebola-like disease.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a viral disease usually transmitted by ticks and livestock animals in countries where the disease is endemic.

The patient, who had recently travelled to Central Asia, was diagnosed at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is receiving specialist care at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

She is only the third known case of the fever in the UK, with prior cases reported in 2012 and 2014.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said the virus “does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low”.


She said the agency was working to contact people who have been in close contact with the woman to assess them and provide advice.

The scientist added: “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.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease has a 10 to 40 per cent fatality rate.

If patients die, it is usually in the second week of infection.

In patients who recover, improvement generally begins on the ninth or 10th day after the onset of illness.

The disease was first described in the Crimea in 1944 and given the name Crimean haemorrhagic fever.

In 1969 it was recognised that the pathogen causing Crimean haemorrhagic fever was the same as that responsible for an illness identified in 1956 in the Congo.

The linkage of the two place names resulted in the current name for the disease and the virus.

Symptoms of the virus come on suddenly and include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light.

People can also suffer nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.

Other signs include rash in the mouth and throat, fast heart rate and enlarged lymph nodes.

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.”

WHO lists CCHF as a “high priority pathogen” alongside other haemorrhagic diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Marburg virus as there are currently no effective drugs or vaccines that specifically target the fever.

A type of tick known as Hyalomma tick is the main carrier of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

These are not established in the UK and the virus has never been detected in the UK in a tick.

Anyone visiting areas where the ticks are found should take protection, the UKHSA said.


This includes avoiding areas where ticks are abundant at times when they are active, using tick repellents and checking clothing and skin carefully for ticks.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the affected ticks are in North Africa and Asia and are also present in southern and eastern Europe, having been recorded in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine.


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