There is no vaccine for influenza, and it can strike swiftly, causing major domestic and internal bleeding, especially from the nose. It is lethal in approximately two of cases, according to doctors.

Nasiriyah, Iraq: By sprinkling insecticides on a cow, health officials attack blood-sucking worms at the heart of Iraq’s worst-known outbreak of a fever that causes people to die in agony.

As the Crimean-Congo haemolytic fever spreads from animals to humans, health workers in complete protective gear have become commonplace in Iraq’s countryside.

Per the Department Of Health ( doh, 111 CCHF incidences in humans have killed 19 persons in Iraq this year.

There is no vaccine for this disease, and it can hit suddenly, causing major internally and externally bleeding, especially from the nose. It is lethal in up to two-fifths of cases, according to doctors.

“The number of sicknesses reported is incredible,” said Haidar Hantouche, a health administrator in Dhi Qar province.

Nearly half of Iraq’s incidences are from this region, which would be a poor farming community in southern Iraq.

In the past, he said, occurrences could be counted “on the ring finger.”

The virus is spread by fleas and affects both domestic and wild animals, such as sheep, goats, cattle, and buffalo, which are all common in Dhi Qar.

A tick has bitten you.

In the town of Al-Bujari, a crew deactivates livestock in a barn near a residence where a female was unwell. While donning masks, glasses, and overalls, the staff spray insecticides on a cow and her two calves.

A worker displays ticks that had fallen from the cow and been caught in a jar.

“Infected ticks bite animals, producing infection,” according to the World Health Organization.

“People become infected with the CCHF virus by being bitten by infected animals or coming into contact with contaminated animal blood or organs immediately after slaughter,” it says.

The increase in cases this year has surprised officials, as it much outnumbers those reported in the 43 years since the sickness was first found in Iraq in 1979.

According to Hantouche, just 16 incidents with seven deaths were documented in his province in 2021. Dhi Qar, on the other hand, has recorded 43 incidents this year, with eight deaths.

Health experts are concerned, despite the fact that the percentages are still minor in contrast to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in almost 25,200 deaths and 2.3 million cases.

According to the WHO, CCHF is widespread throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, with a fatality rate of 10 to 40%.

The outbreak in Iraq, according to Ahmed Zouiten, the WHO’s director in Iraq, could be triggered by a number of “hypotheses.”

One of them was tick spread due to a lack of cattle spraying operations in Covid in 2020 and 2021.

“We ascribe part of this outbreak to climate change, very cautiously,” he added, “which has increased the time of tick multiplication.”

He went on to say that “mortality appears to be declining,” noting Iraq’s spraying program and “good results” from new medical treatments.

The investigation of slaughterhouses is underway.

According to the WHO, the virus is “primarily conveyed” to humans by ticks on cattle, therefore the bulk of cases are among farms, butcher employees, and vets.

It states that “human-to-human infection can occur as a consequence of exposure to infected individuals’ saliva, blood, organs, or other bodily fluids.”

In addition to excessive bleeding, the virus causes a high temperature and vomiting.

Medics are concerned that the number of cases may rise around the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in July, when families traditionally butcher an animal to feed visitors.

“Because of the increased slaughter of animals and more interaction with meat around Eid, there are fears of an increase in instances,” said Azhar al-Assadi, a specialist in haematological disorders at a hospital in Nasiriya.

The bulk of those infected were “about 33 years old,” but their ages ranged from 12 to 75, according to him.

Authorities have begun disinfection efforts and are enforcing sanitary standards at slaughterhouses that fail to comply. Several states have made it unlawful to transfer animals over state lines.

Authorities in Najaf, a city in the south, are keeping an eye on slaughterhouses.

The virus has had a severe influence on meat consumption, according to staff and officials there.

“I used to kill 15 or 16 animals a day,” said butcher Hamid Mohsen, “but now it’s probably around seven or eight.”

Meanwhile, Fares Mansour, director of the Najaf Veterinary Hospital, which oversees the abattoirs, said the number of animals arriving for slaughter had reduced to roughly half of what it had been previously.

He explained, “People are afraid of red meat because they feel it can spread diseases.”

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