Congo fever fears deepen

13 May 2019 | Health

A third suspected case of the highly contagious Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) has been reported at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital.

A 27-year-old man from Ontananga in the Oshikoto Region has been in the isolation unit at the hospital since he was admitted on 8 May with symptoms of the deadly disease.

Health ministry teams have been deployed in the Ontananga area to check up on everyone who has been in contact with the Congo fever patients.

The ministry earlier confirmed that a 54-year-old woman had tested positive for Congo fever. An elderly man has died, but it has not been confirmed that he had Congo fever.

The ministry's public relations officer, Manga Libita, says all suspected cases will be admitted for observation until cleared, while community mobilisation continues.

The acting health director, Dr Helena Nkandi-Shiimi, confirmed that the latest suspected case was admitted to the Onandjokwe hospital with a nosebleed.

“He is currently in the isolation unit, while the hospital is waiting for blood results test from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases Regional Reference Laboratory in South Africa,” said Nkandi-Shiimi.

She added that test results for the second suspect, a 78-year-old man from Ontanaga who died upon arrival at the hospital on 7 May, have not yet been received.

The first case was a 54-year-old woman from Ontanaga who tested positive for Congo fever after being admitted to the same hospital on 26 April.

The health ministry says it takes about three days to get test results from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases Regional Reference Laboratory in South Africa.

Congo fever is a viral disease spread by ticks.

The hosts of the ticks carrying the virus are wild and domestic animals including cattle, sheep and goats. These animals become infected after being bitten by infected ticks and the virus remains in their bloodstream for about two weeks after infection, allowing the tick-animal-tick cycle to continue when another tick bites the animal.

Human transmission can occur when someone is bitten by an infected tick or comes into direct contact with the blood or tissue of an infected animal or person.

Congo fever can be transmitted from one infected human to another by contact with infected blood or body fluids. In humans, Congo fever can present with several symptoms including sudden onset of high-grade fever, muscle aches, neck pains, neck stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and sometimes bleeding from body cavities.

The regional health emergency management committee was activated on 26 April, while preliminary environmental assessments are under way in the affected areas. Remedial measures for an outbreak are also being put into place.

The last outbreak of the disease was in February 2017 when a farmworker from the Omaheke Region died in the Gobabis State Hospital. At the time, the health ministry reported that a nurse treated a patient with Congo fever.

The owner of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation east of Gobabis, Nick van der Merwe, died of Congo fever in 2001 after being bitten by a tick during a cattle roundup.

This new confirmed case is the fifth case reported in Namibia in 16 years.