Killer ‘eye-bleeding’ virus is found in FRANCE for first time amid fears tick-borne disease will soon make Britain home
- French authorities detected the virus in tests conducted on the Spanish border
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A disease thought to kill up to four in 10 people who get infected has been spotted in France for the first time.
Ticks carrying Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) have been found on the nation’s border with Spain.
The disease — a cousin of Ebola — is endemic to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Balkans but has been sporadically detected in southern parts of western Europe like Spain.
Experts have long warned that climate change will inevitably propel the disease into northern Europe. And even Britain could be at risk.
French health authorities have detected the deadly tick-borne disease Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever inside animals
Live ticks collected from cattle in the Pyrénées Orientales region were discovered to be harbouring the disease.
World Health Organization officials declared CCHF one of its nine priority diseases earlier this year due to its potential threat.
CCHF is mainly spread to humans by tick bites, but people can also catch it through contact with bodily fluids from infected patients.
The disease shares similar symptoms to Ebola at the start, including muscle aches, abdominal pain, a sore throat and vomiting.
It can also trigger bleeds, usually from the nose or from broken capillaries on the eyes and skin.
Other symptoms of the virus, which come on suddenly, include fever, dizziness, neck pain and stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light.
No vaccine is available, with treatment instead focused on keeping a person alive long enough for their body to fight off the infection.
Previous CCHF outbreaks have killed between 10 to 40 per cent of those infected, according to the WHO.
UK health authorities have advised people travelling to the region in France where CCHF was detected to try to avoid tick bites.
CCHF, a tick-borne virus, has a mortality rate of up to 40 per cent according to the World Health Organization and causes symptoms similar to Ebola (stock image)
A number of diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks could be on their way to Britain, experts have warned, thanks to warming temperatures
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They warned those undertaking camping, hiking, or interacting with animals in the region are especially at risk of such bites.
CCHF cases have been detected in people in France before, but these have, so far, all been imported cases where people were initially infected overseas.
‘No autochthonous case (infection acquired on French territory) has been detected in humans in France to date,’ the French Government agency Santé publique France said in its announcement of the discovery.
Health authorities have long suspected ticks with CCHF may be lurking inside both wild and domestic animals in France based on tests that showed livestock had developed antibodies against the virus.
The announcement of the CCHF directly from ticks collected from French livestock confirms these fears.
CCHF infections in humans have already been reported multiple times in neighbouring Spain, with 12 cases between 2013 and August last year, four of which were fatal.
Ticks with CCHF were first detected in Spain in 2010.
In August this year the EU’s disease watchdog reported two cases of CCHF in North Macedonia, one of which was fatal.
The first and fatal case occurred in late July in an agricultural worker who reported being bitten by a tick.
A second case the developed in a healthcare worked who initially treated the man then went on to develop symptoms on August 8.
CCHF is mainly transmitted to humans via bites from the The Hyalomma marginatum tick.
This tick is roughly 5mm in size and the fact it has two coloured legs with whitish rings at the joints.
Speaking in July Professor James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, told MPs on the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee: ‘Some tick-borne infections, so Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, are highly likely to spread in the UK through our ticks at some point,’ he said.
He even warned that potential outbreaks could initially slip under the radar with CCHF a disease few medics in this country have experience with.
‘The challenge will be early detection because our clinicians don’t know what they look like,’ he said.
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