The Foreign Ministry issues a warning after the virus is fatal in a third of cases found in Spain

Health officials have issued an alert after a serious illness was detected in Spain, which is fatal in almost a third of cases. The website Travel Health Pro, which is supported by the Foreign Office, has warned people considering traveling to the country to be aware of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through tick bites.

The Spanish Ministry of Health in Castile and León said one patient is in hospital in a serious but stable condition and is being isolated in Salamanca. “The patient remains hospitalized, stable in serious condition, at Salamanca Hospital, where protocolized epidemiological and care measures have been adopted.”

“The confirmed case is an elderly man who is admitted to Salamanca Hospital with a clinical picture compatible with CCHF. He has a tick bite and remains stable, although with the clinical severity that this pathology implies, with the isolation and protection measures for medical personnel provided for these situations.

The Epidemiology Section of the Territorial Health Service of the Government of Castilla y León in the province of Salamanca, in collaboration with the doctors of the Salamanca Hospital, declared that the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is caused by a virus. It said: “The main mechanism of transmission is the bite of the tick of the genus ‘Hyalomma’, although it can also be transmitted from person to person through contact with the patient’s blood or fluids, which can particularly occur in medical staff when they are not protected suitable.”

Spanish health authorities are issuing advice on how to act to prevent catching CCHF. “In terms of preventing bites from these insects, health authorities remind us of the importance of wearing appropriate clothing and footwear when out in the countryside, walking on footpaths and using repellent for both humans and pets . It should also be insisted that any ticks that may have attached should be removed as soon as possible and properly, preferably by health professionals.”

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever was identified in Crimea (as Crimea fever) in 1944 and in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1956. In Spain, the CCHF virus was first reported in ticks in 2010. Spanish Ministry of Health reported 12 human cases and 4 deaths in Spain between 2013 and August 2022.

The Travel Health Pro added: “The virus exists in nature in domestic and wild animals, including horses, donkeys, goats, cattle, sheep and pigs. The virus is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick or direct contact with the body fluids of infected animals/humans. Exposure to the virus is also possible through blood contact by crushing an infected tick. Camping and hiking are risk factors for exposure to tick bites. The incubation period is between 1 and 13 days. The death rate is about 30 percent.”

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