Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever strikes in Dakar

Senegal’s health ministry confirmed a case of the potentially deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in a hospital on the outskirts of the capital Dakar, it said in a statement.

The case was detected on April 21 in the Dalal Jamm hospital in Guediawaye, the health ministry said in the statement. A health emergency task force has been activated to oversee the response.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a viral haemorrhagic fever usually transmitted by ticks. It can also be contracted through contact with viraemic animal tissues (animal tissue where the virus has entered the bloodstream) during and immediately post-slaughter of animals. 

CCHF outbreaks constitute a threat to public health services as the virus can lead to epidemics, has a high case fatality ratio (10–40%), potentially results in hospital and health facility outbreaks, and is difficult to prevent and treat. CCHF is endemic in all of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia.

According to the WHO, the disease was first described in the Crimean Peninsula in 1944 and given the name Crimean haemorrhagic fever. In 1969 it was recognized that the pathogen causing Crimean haemorrhagic fever was the same as that responsible for an illness identified in 1956 in the Congo Basin. The linkage of the two place names resulted in the current name for the disease and the virus.

Recent outbreaks in Africa have, thankfully, been relatively limited in their spread. According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the largest recent outbreak was detected in Mauritania in 2003, with 35 cases and six deaths. South Africa had 17 cases and five deaths in 2011.