Alife-threatening viral disease has been slowly spreading to new countries, with locations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East recording new cases of the infection.
The disease, named Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), has seen recent outbreaks in Iraq and Namibia, and Pakistani health officials have reported two deaths.
The disease is also “highly likely” to reach the U.K., scientists warned the U.K. parliament’s Science, Innovation and Technology Committee last Wednesday.
“Some tick-borne infections, so Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, are highly likely to spread in the U.K. through our ticks at some point,” James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said at the hearing.
CCHF is a viral disease caused by Nairovirus, spread via ticks, that has a fatality rate of between 10 and 40 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is usually found in low levels across Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and in Asia.
There have been no outbreaks in the U.S., according to a 2021 article on WebMD, a health information site.
Now, however, this disease may be expanding its usual territory and moving northwest towards countries like the U.K. and France, due to the effects of climate change. The U.K. has recorded three cases of CCHF since 2012, most recently last year, but they were all people who contracted the disease overseas.
“The ticks are moving up through Europe due to climate change, with longer and drier summers,” Ali Mirazimi, a virologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the Modern Diplomacy website in April.
Western European countries like Spain are already seeing cases of the disease, with deaths having been recorded over the past few years.
CCFH is one of nine “priority diseases” ranked by the WHO as posing the greatest public health risk due to their epidemic potential. The virus is spread by ixodid ticks, but can also be transmitted by contact with infectious blood or body fluids from other humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of the virus can include a headache, high fever, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, and vomiting, and in severe cases, jaundice, changes in mood and sensory perception, and severe hemorrhaging.