Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic fever

Climate change is aiding the spread of the deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus in Europe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key Points

  • As Europe faces a severe heatwave and wildfires, the rising temperatures have also increased the risk of transmission of viruses that are usually confined to warmer regions.
  • One of these viruses is the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a tick-borne infection that has a high fatality rate

What is Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)?

  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a viral haemorrhagic fever that is usually transmitted by ticks that carry the CCHF virus, which belongs to the Bunyaviridae family of viruses.
  • It can also be contracted through contact with viraemic animal tissues (animal tissue where the virus has entered the boloodstream) during and immediately post-slaughter of animals.
  • It is found in many regions of the world, including Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia. The main areas where the disease occurs are those where the ticks of the genus Hyalomma live.


  • The disease was first detected among soldiers in the Crimear Peninsula (near the Black Sea) in 1944.
  • In 1969, it was found that an ailment identified in the Congo Basin was caused by the same pathogen. Thus, the disease was named the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
  • Its outbreak constitute a threat to public health services as the virus can lead to epidemics, has a high case fatality ratio (10-40%).

Cases of deaths

  • The first death from CCHF in Europe occurred in Spain in 2016. Since then, more cases have been reported in Spain, Russia, Turkey, and the UK.
  • In India, one person died of CCHF in Gujarat, the state that accounts for most of the country’s cases of this disease.


  • Animals such as cattle, goats, sheep and hares serve as amplifying hosts for the virus.
  • Transmission to humans occurs through contact with infected ticks or animal blood.
  • The virus can also be transmitted between humans througth contact with infectious blood or body fluids.
  • Migratory birds can host ticks, allowing the virus to spread over long distances.


  • Common symptoms of CCHF include fever, muscle aches, dizziness, neck and back pain, headache, sore eyes, and sensitivity to light.
  • Early symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sore throat, followed by mood swings and confusion.
  • After 2-4 days the agitation may be replaced by sleepiness. depression and lassitude


  • CCHF can be diagnosed by testing blood samples for the presence of the virus or its antibodies.
  • However, this requires specialized laboratory equipment and trained staff, which may not be available in some areas where CCHF occurs.
  • There is no vaccine for the virus in either humans or animals, and treatment generally consists of managing symptoms.
  • Patients with CCHF should be isolated and treated in a hospital with strict infection control measures.
  • Health workers and caregivers should wear protective clothing and gloves, and dispose of contaminated materials safely.
  • According to the WHO, “the antiviral drug ribavirin has been used to treat CCHF infection with apparent benefit.”

Climate change and spread of diseases

  • Climate change plays a role in the expansion of pathogens into new territories.
  • Rising temperatures and disrupted climate patterns have created favourable conditions for viruses not typically found in colder climates.
  • Warmer temperatures and altered habitats allow ticks and other insects to thrive in previously unsuitable regions.
  • Changes in water habitats and animal migration patterns contribute to disease spread.

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