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Congo fever man out of isolation

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Victims develop a sudden fever, muscle and back pain, dizziness, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain

Picture: Brenton Geach

MARK Elliott, the 58-year-old Kimberley man who was diagnosed with the deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, commonly known as Congo fever, has been discharged from the isolation unit at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.

According to his wife Sharon, Mark was discharged on Friday last week.

“There is still a long way to go before he completely recovers,” Sharon added.

Mark fell ill after he was bitten by a number of ticks in the Koopmansfontein area, 95km north-west of Kimberley.

He was treated in isolation at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) confirmed his diagnosis with laboratory tests.

This is the second case of Congo fever reported in SA this year. The first victim was a Free State vet.

The disease has been known in SA since 1981, but is rare in humans and typically only a handful of cases are reported a year.

More than half of the 180 confirmed cases have occurred in the Northern Cape and Free State.

According to the NCID, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is caused by a virus usually transmitted to humans through bites by the hyalomma tick (or “bontpoot” tick), which has a red body and red-and-white striped legs. It can also be transmitted by contact with infected animal tissues and blood.

Victims develop a sudden fever, muscle and back pain, dizziness, headache, sore eyes and sensitivity to light, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. They also experience sudden mood swings and can be confused or aggressive.

The NCID said patients became lethargic after two to four days, developed a fine red and purple rash and suffered large areas of bleeding into the skin. Bleeding may also occur from or into the gut, in urine, and in the nose and gums.

Treatment includes administration of fluids and electrolytes and medication with the antiviral ribavirin.

Most patients recover, but up to 30% develop severe illness with multi-organ failure and die around the fifth day of illness.