People warned of Congo virus threat in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Faced with lack of capacity in providing appropriate medical cover to dengue virus victims in government-run hospitals, health officials in Islamabad have warned people of imminent threat of Congo virus.

The health department of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has sought technical assistance and human resources from government of Punjab besides issuing an advisory to citizens as preventive measures to avert Congo virus, sources told The Express Tribune on Monday.

“Punjab government has been approached to share its expertise in tackling the epidemic,” ICT senior epidemiologist Dr Muhammad Najeeb Durrani said.

“Punjab has evolved most modern mechanism for the medical treatment of dengue fever victims in its hospitals,” Durrani said, adding September has always been critical every year when the dengue virus spreads with an alarming speediness.

First case of 2016: Patient tests positive for Congo fever

He admitted that apart from capacity issues, grave deficiency of doctors, specialists and required medical equipment and machines were also major factors for the ever increasing scarcity of health services in Islamabad hospitals.

Durrani, who is also a member of Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), has claimed that over 400 victims of dengue fever were brought to government hospitals in Islamabad last year out of which two patients lost their lives.

The fact, however, remains that many dengue fever patients were those who were either taken to Rawalpindi hospitals or private health centres.

About Congo fever, Durrani said the disease is caused by bite of an infected tick. “When an infected tick bites an animal, usually a goat or sheep, the animal gets infected by developing fever.”

He added: “At the time when virus is circulating in blood of the infected animal, any person slaughtering it gets infected. The platelets of the infected person get depleted and later blood oozes out of his skin from gums and nose.”

The health official went on to say, “The disease keeps on spreading from one person to another which is its most deadly feature. We must understand the only measure to stop the spread of the disease is by barrier nursing and basic biosafety measures.”

The drug choice available is called Ribavirin, he added.

Public health: Congo virus incidence to be monitored after two cases

It is a well-established fact that Congo virus infected animals are brought to the country from neighbouring Afghanistan by their owners to feed them in green pastures every winter.

The disease is endemic in Balochistan’s regions bordering Afghanistan. Over 12 people died in Peshawar hospitals recently as infected animals entered in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata from Balochistan or Afghanistan.

According to a report published earlier by The Express Tribune, five victims of Cango fever were brought to Hayatabad Medical Complex in October 2014 after exhibiting signs of Congo fever. All of them, including three Afghans, died one by one.

All the five patients were brought within a period of two weeks after Eidul Azha – when Muslims slaughter animals in mass as a religious ritual.

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