You might have read the news that Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) or Congo virus cases have emerged in Pakistan.

There is news of the virus spreading further up north, to Punjab.

Pakistan has had a Congo virus scare for many years now. Humans get infected through infected animals, which in turn get it from infected ticks. The stats given by the health departments in Pakistan are rarely trustworthy. Health officials commonly fudge or hide facts and the health coverage in this country is so low that many death go unaccounted. Particularly those in the rural areas, which are more exposed to animals and have lesser sanitation than the urban dwellings.

We are an agrarian society which thrives on animals for cattle and labor. Even big cities like Lahore have a lot of donkeys, horses and different kinds of cattle and pets. Therefore, the virus can spread swiftly if not controlled.

But there is nothing to worry of course. Preventive measures and early diagnosis can save lives! Less than half the people who contract this virus die, and that too due to improper treatment.

Here are five facts you should know about the Congo virus :

1.  Sign and symptoms in animals:

Many species of wild and domestic animals can become a host to the virus, cattle and pets included. Most bird are resistant though.They usually have no or few symptoms and survive it, unlike humans who have severe symptoms.

2.  Signs and symptoms in people:

Symptoms vary person to person but this is what you can expect:

·       Usually, flu-like symptoms appear first, which may end in a week’s time.

·       In nearly 75% of cases, signs of hemorrhagic fever appear in the first week if not treated properly. This means emotional confusion, aggression, mood swings, fever, red eyes, flushed face, joint pain, nosebleeds, vomiting and black stools.

·       The liver gets swollen which causes pain in the upper abdomen.

·       This can be followed by kidney failure, breathing problems, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate and eventually a shock (a serious case of poor blood circulation)

·       In the second week, the condition may start improving, more likely if you seek treatment.

3.  What can you do if you suspect you have it?

You must be cautious if you are exposure to any animals often, even those you eat. If you have any of the above symptoms, the obvious stop should be a clinic or hospital. Timing is the key, sooner the better.

4.  What precautions can you take?

There is no vaccine available as yet, so creating awareness is all we can do.

·       Stay fully covered, wear bright clothes to detect ticks and wear gloves when around animals.

·       Eliminate ticks, use a spray on your animals and use a protective spray on your clothes and clothing.

·       Avoid areas where there are too many ticks.

·       Isolate patients who have the virus, maintain minimal or protected contact, wash you body and hands afterwards. Wear gloves and masks. The syringes and needles should be carefully disposed.

·       Health practitioners, hunters, agriculturalists and those who handle raw meat during slaughtering, meat-supplying and cooking are also at risk

·       Minimize insect bites, pests and rodents in the house or elsewhere.

·       Cook meat thoroughly, avoid it if possible. It is more common in larger animals than in birds. So chicken and fish might be safer.

·       Try not to eat, drink around animals and wear gloves whenever possible. Sanitation is a must here.

·       Infected animals show abnormal behavior and other symptoms so see a vet swiftly.

·       Sanitation is important. The virus is present in all fluids released by the host animals and patients.

·       Don’t share utensils.

·       The Eid-ul-Azha is approaching. The meat can be neutralized by cooking but the disposed organs and leaked blood is risky. So do not let the leftovers stay and clean everything quickly while remaining covered.

Don’t worry. If you are careful enough, you will remain safe.