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Congo Virus

The death of a woman in Quetta who was carrying the Congo virus brings the death toll associated with the virus to 19 for the year, with most of the deaths having come in Balochistan and Karachi.There are now genuine worries that there will be an epidemic of this tick-borne viral disease as Eidul Azha approaches.

The Congo virus transfers from ticks to animals and the sick animals then transfer it to human beings. There is no cure for the virus, which causes bleeding in the gums and nose, fever and kidney and liver failure.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of sacrificial animals are coming to Karachi, with the biggest cattle market being set up along the Super Highway. With the very real fear of Congo virus hitting us, the health department needed to ensure that all animals were vaccinated before coming to the city since the vaccine has a 21-day incubation period.

The greatest risk is to those who will be coming into daily contact with the animals and handling them. Doctors have suggested that they cover their mouths and eyes when slaughtering animals and wear light-coloured, full-sleeved clothes so that any ticks can be immediately identified.

Awareness about Congo virus is low enough that most people will not know what precautions to take. It is essential that more vets be dispatched to Super Highway – where there are only 17 present right now and other cattle markets.

Animals should not be sold until they have a genuine vaccination certificate. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has directed public hospitals to establish isolation wards for those who are afflicted by the Congo virus.

This is urgently needed since a man who contracted the Congo virus from a cattle market in Sohrab Goth died at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where there were no special facilities for people suffering from the virus. Among the Congo virus deaths this year is that of a doctor who contracted the virus from a patient. Just basic safety measures should have already been in place.

The general population, too, needs to be educated about wearing masks when near sacrificial animals or when entering cattle markets. The infectious nature of the virus means it can spread far more quickly than our ability to stop it. The time to take preventive measures is nearly up and we need to do the best we can before Eid in just a few weeks.


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