KARACHI - Doctors and veterinarians warned about the Sindh government’s inability to check the health condition of all sacrificial animals, urging the people to adopt precautionary measures while slaughtering animals on today to avert contracting the deadly Congo virus.

“The threat of Congo virus looms large as millions of animals have been brought into the city from across the country and even from neighbouring countries,” said Qaisar Sajjad, General Secretary, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA). He told The Nation that there were ample chances that some of these animals might be infected with Congo virus as the government has failed to screen such infected animals. “Devising a system to check millions of animals is not an easy task,” he said. “People need to adopt precautionary measures such as wearing gloves and masks while slaughtering and handling animals,” he said.

According to a research report on Congo virus, occupational groups such as herders, farmers, abattoir workers, veterinarians / animal health workers, hunters and persons informally slaughtering domestic / wild animals face greater risk of contracting Congo virus.

These people were more exposed to ticks infesting the animals, besides handling animal blood and tissues (for example during castration of calves, vaccination, notching / tagging and slaughtering).

The report added that human beings could become infected with Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever virus if bitten by infected ticks and if fluids of ticks entered cuts and grazes on skin, or splashed into eyes, nose or mouth.

According to the data, last year at least 13 deaths caused by Congo virus were reported from across the country, while seven people already reportedly infected in Karachi. According to Commissioner Karachi, Suleh Ahmed Farooqui in his press statement said that Health counters have already been established at the entry of the city as well as cattle markets,

He also directed that KMC veterinary department must check all sacrificial animals.  “Our medics are highly-trained and know how to deal with Congo virus cases, protective gears for the safety of doctors are also available in hospitals,” he added. “The government is doing its best, but people must also take precautions while slaughtering animals. Precaution is the best way to avoid this deadly disease.” Dr Muhammad Mossa at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital said that Congo fever was a disease growing on the skin of goats and other animals. He added it was more lethal than cancer.

He stated that people should be careful when touching any animals which are likely to have ticks.

He said Congo virus originated from Africa and resulted from ticks living in the skins of goats, cows, buffalos and camels.

“They live in the blood of these animals and can be transferred to human beings through touch,” he added. He pointed out that patients suffer from fever, hunger, weakness and swelling of the eyes, while their white cells decrease quickly and result in the death of patients.

He said that Congo was a fast spreading disease all over the world, so it was necessary for locals to be careful.