NAMIBIA — Namibia has declared an outbreak of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) after one person died from the disease in the capital city of Windhoek, according to the government.

The case was detected on May 21 at a state hospital in Windhoek, as reported by the Ministry of Health.

The patient initially sought treatment at a private facility in Gobabis on May 16 before being transferred to a private hospital.

However, the patient’s condition deteriorated, leading to referral to a state hospital on May 18, where blood samples were collected for investigation.

Regrettably, the patient passed away on the same day, and the confirmation of CCHF came on May 21.

In response to the confirmed case, the Ministry of Health has identified a total of 27 contacts, including 24 health workers, one coworker, and two household contacts of the deceased.

These individuals are currently under close monitoring for any signs or symptoms of the disease. Namibia previously experienced CCHF outbreaks between 2017 and 2020, resulting in a total of six confirmed cases and three fatalities.

To effectively manage the current situation, the Ministry of Health has activated a health emergency task force to oversee the response and coordinate efforts in order to prevent further transmission of the virus.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), caused by a tick-borne virus belonging to the Bunyaviridae family, is a widespread disease that poses a significant threat to public health.

Similar to Ebola and Marburg, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed CCHF as one of the nine pathogens most likely to trigger a pandemic.

While CCHF is primarily transmitted through tick bites, it can also spread between humans through the exchange of bodily fluids, including blood.

Inadequate sterilization of medical equipment in healthcare settings can facilitate its transmission among hospital patients.

The WHO has cautioned that CCHF outbreaks can severely impact public health services and may lead to hospital and health facility outbreaks.

On Tuesday, the WHO identified CCHF as one of its priority diseases that present the greatest risk to public health.

These diseases were selected due to the lack of specific treatments available and their potential to cause a pandemic. COVID-19, Marburg virus disease (with an alarming case-fatality ratio of 88%), and Lassa fever (resulting in 1 to 3% fatality among those infected) also feature on this list.

Hyalomma ticks are the primary carriers of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. The virus can be transmitted among humans through close contact with infected blood or bodily fluids, as highlighted by the World Health Organization.

The fatality rate of CCHF varies between 10% and 40%, underscoring the severity of the disease.

In response to the recent outbreak, health authorities have urged the public to remain calm and vigilant, taking necessary precautions to prevent tick bites.

These measures include using protective clothing and applying insect repellents to reduce the risk of exposure to infected ticks. Heightened awareness and proactive measures are essential to curbing the spread of this dangerous disease.

The government has activated health-emergency committees to prevent further transmission and is closely monitoring all contacts of the deceased in Gobabis and Windhoek.

CCHF, endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and some Asian countries, presents symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, dizziness, light sensitivity, vomiting, and can progress to organ failure and internal bleeding.

The disease was first detected in Crimea in 1944, and recent outbreaks in Africa have been limited in scope, with Senegal confirming one case in April.

Namibia has experienced six CCHF outbreaks since 2016, resulting in a total of three deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.

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