Eidul Azha brings a surge in the number of Congo virus cases every year. Sacrificial animals are brought into cattle markets from different cities, increasing the chances of the disease spreading significantly. Ten cases ave been reported in Sindh this year alone, of which six people died due to the disease.
The Congo virus spreads through a tick which can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, including cattle. The adult female form of the tick attaches itself to wild animals to lay eggs. She obtains calcium and protein needed for this stage in her reproductive cycle from the animal.
Sindh Institute of Animal Health Director General Dr Nazeer Kalhoro explained this while elaborating on the situation in Sindh on SAMAA TV’s programme Naya Din on Monday.
“Since the cattle markets were set up in June, five cases of Congo were reported. Two of them died while two were cured,” said Dr Kalhoro. “From January to August, a total of 10 cases have been reported in Sindh. Six of them have died. Three have been completely cured and discharged. One case from Balochistan left against medical advice,” he said.
Dr Kalhoro said that though Congo virus can be transmitted from cattle markets, the chances are relatively low. He said this was because most animals in the markets were healthy and looked after well. They were washed regularly and sprayed.
“The provincial government does not look after cattle markets. However, we still carry out spraying,” assured Dr Kalhoro.
He added that to decrease the chances of catching Congo fever, it is the responsibility of the public to take precautionary measures.
Precautionary measures to protect against the disease have already been highlighted by the World Health Organisation, Aga Khan University Hospital and animal health experts including Dr Kalhoro.
The best way to prevent the disease-carrying tick from climbing onto your body while you’re buying animals is to wear light-coloured, full-sleeved clothing and cover every exposed part properly. Feet should be covered with closed shoes and hands with gloves.
“Examine yourself and your clothes after leaving the market to check if any tick is attached,” said Dr Kalhoro.
Take a shower after returning home and discard the day’s clothes in the laundry. During slaughtering, keep your nose and mouth covered with a mask. If your hands touch animal blood, keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have a fever after coming in contact with an animal, experts urge that you consult a doctor immediately.
Commenting on sacrificial animals tied outside people’s homes before Eid, Dr Kalhoro reassured viewers that it wasn’t necessary that every animal would carry the tick. However, he said a healthy animal tied in a place where it could be exposed to wild animals risks catching the disease from them. He said people shouldn’t panic but remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to stay safe.