NASIRIYAH – Spraying a cow with pesticides, health workers target blood-sucking ticks at the heart of Iraq’s worst detected outbreak of a fever that causes people to bleed to death.
The sight of the health workers, dressed in full protective kit, is one that has become common in the Iraqi countryside, as the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever spreads, jumping from animals to humans. This year Iraq has recorded 19 deaths among 111 CCHF cases in humans, according to the Word Health Organization.
The virus has no vaccine and onset can be swift, causing severe bleeding both internally and externally and especially from the nose. It causes death in as many as two-fifths of cases, according to medics. “The number of cases recorded is unprecedented,” said Haidar Hantouche, a health official in Dhi Qar province.
A poor farming region in southern Iraq, the province accounts for nearly half of Iraq’s cases. In previous years, cases could be counted “on the fingers of one hand”, he added. Transmitted by ticks, hosts of the virus include both wild and farmed animals such as buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep, all of which are common in Dhi Qar.