University of Nebraska Medical Center

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, CCHF, Virus Spreading In Europe Due To Climate Change


Here’s another growing problem with climate change that politicians and business leaders can ignore—the spread of CCHF. CCHF is not a rock band. That would be CCR or Creedence Clearwater Revival. Instead, CCHF stands for Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. And it’s not like cowbell fever. It’s a potentially deadly fever caused by a virus that’s on the list of World Health Organization (WHO) priority pathogens that can cause outbreaks and pandemics.

The problem is that the Earth is essentially warming up to the spread of this virus. Rising temperatures around the world have been expanding the habitat of the ticks that can carry and transmit the nairovirus that causes CCHF into more temperate regions such as Europe. For example, Spain had its first cases of CCHF in 2011 and 2016. Yes, folks this is yet another ticking time bomb from climate change.

Before you claim that CCHF is not a big deal. Go to the bathroom. Put down your G.I. Joe doll. Open one of your hands. And slap yourself on the face. CCHF is absolutely, positively not like a cold. It’s fun thing to have. That’s unless you find the sudden onset of headaches, high fevers, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, and vomiting to be a fun things. Oh, and there’s all the well-red stuff, so to speak, like the red eyes, flushed face, red throat, and red spots on your palate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also suffer jaundice. Hmm, what else? You could possibly have changes in your mood. That’s beyond the fact that you’re upset that you have freaking CCHF.

The tip off that CCHF is really bad is the “hemorrhagic” in its name. Very few things with this word—which means a lot of bleeding—are good. For example, if you happen to see “hemorrhagic ice cream” as one of the flavors in an ice cream shop, avoid that flavor. In fact, you may want to avoid the ice cream shop all together. After about four days of symptoms, CCHF can progress to some bloody awful problems such as severe bruising, severe nosebleeds, and uncontrolled bleeding at any part of the skin that may be penetrated with something like a needle. This bleeding can last for two weeks. Death has resulted in 9% to 50% of hospitalized patients during CCHF outbreaks. That’s a pretty high risk of death. Even if you do survive CCHF, recovery can take a long time because bleeding all over the place is not something you simply walk off when it subsides.

Here’s some more great news. There no real specific treatments for CCHF. The antiviral drug ribavirin may help. But the jury is still out on that. The main things to do is stay well hydrated, have your electrolytes closely monitored and corrected where needed, and receive extra oxygen and blood when needed. Of course, things could spiral down, requiring ventilator and other types of cardiopulmonary support. You’ve got to beware of getting secondary bacterial infections as well. Yeah, all of this really bites and sucks.

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