CONGO Fever is an extremely serious disease which can kill up to 50 percent of the people infected by the virus if they do not receive appropriate medical attention.
Namibians who suspect that they might have been infected and are showing any of the symptoms listed below should immediately seek medical help from a clinic, hospital or medical doctor.
Stripe-legged ticks (Hyalomma spp.) transmit Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever.
The virus can remain in the tick for a long period and even pass through the eggs to infect the next generation of ticks.
Immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) feed on small mammals such as mice and rats as well as birds such as chickens and guinea fowl. Adult ticks feed on cattle, sheep, goats and ostriches, as well as on antelope.
An animal bitten by an infected tick does not develop the disease, but can circulate the virus in its bloodstream for up to a week. Non-infected ticks become infected by feeding on the animal during this period, spreading the virus even further.
Humans become infected when bitten by an infected tick, by squashing it, or if blood from an infected animal comes into contact with broken skin on a person. The virus can also be transferred from human to human through blood and other bodily fluids.
A person usually becomes sick within three days of being bitten by a tick, or five to six days after exposure to the blood of an infected animal or human.
Symptoms include a severe headache with sore, reddened eyes, fever with cold shivers, and intense body pains, particularly involving the muscles of the lower back and thighs.
Nausea and vomiting may occur, sometimes with abdominal pain and diarrhoea during the early stage.
After about five days, the patient may develop a rash of pink blotches on the body. The skin bruises easily, the nose often bleeds and blood may be present in the stool and urine.
The patient may vomit blood and bleed from the gums. A woman may develop severe uterine bleeding. Bleeding from needle puncture sites is common. Internal bleeding can also occur.
In the end the patient goes into a coma from liver, kidney and lung failure. The patient may die, usually from heart failure, five to 14 days after the onset of the illness.
A doctor should be consulted immediately if infection is suspected. Treatment generally consists of intravenous drug treatment and haemodynamic support.
Although evidence is lacking that the virus continues to be excreted in body fluids, a patient should avoid intimate contact with other people for six weeks after recovering from the disease to avoid spreading the infection. The patient should also avoid heavy manual work or exertion during this time.
Anyone likely to be exposed to tick bites should treat clothing, including socks and trousers, with a pyrethroid acaricide. An acaricide is a specific insecticide used against ticks.
People in rural areas, abattoir workers, veterinary staff, farm workers and hunters should wear impervious protective clothing and gloves when engaged in activities that risk exposure to animal blood.
At present, there is no human vaccine for Congo Fever.
One person has died and four more are being kept under strict isolation and observation in hospitals across the country after Congo Fever has been reported in Namibia a week ago. People who have been in contact with the patients are also closely monitored by officials from the Ministry of Health and Social Services.