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. Suspected Haemorrhagic Fever Case In Pakistan Quake Zone

Haemorrhagic fever is caused by a tick-borne virus stemming from livestock which is transmitted into open cuts and sores. It causes massive bleeding through the nose, mouth and ears and can lead to organ failure.

Islamabad, Pakistan (AFP) Oct 26, 2005
A patient with a suspected case of highly contagious haemorrhagic fever has been airlifted from a Pakistani town devastated by the October 8 earthquake, health officials said Wednesday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had not confirmed that the patient from the ruined town of Bagh was definitely suffering from the disease, which can cause death by massive internal bleeding.

"It is not a confirmed case but a highly suspected case," Krist Teirlink, the Paris-based charity's coordinator for emergency operations in Pakistani Kashmir, told AFP.

"The patient has been evacuated by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO)," he added.

The WHO confirmed that it had flown out a suspected case of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever from the area by helicopter, adding that the man was due to arrive shortly in the capital Islamabad.

"There is a suspected case but it's not a reason for alarm or panic," WHO official Rachel Lavy told AFP. "We have evacuated the individual from the area and will take tests."

The WHO's medical officer for disease surveillance and response, Rana Graber, said the patient would be isolated at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad's biggest hospital.

"We have no laboratories there (in Bagh) so because the patient is bleeding and has a fever we were thinking we should bring the case here so we can evaluate it," she told AFP from Islamabad.

Doctors had given anti-viral drugs to the patient's family and anyone else who had been in direct contact with him to stop them contracting the disease, Graber said.

But she stressed that haemorrhagic fever could only be passed on through bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and faeces and could not be transmitted by breathing.

In recent years Pakistan has suffered a number of cases of haemorrhagic fever, some of which proved fatal.

It is caused by a tick-borne virus stemming from livestock which is transmitted into open cuts and sores. It causes massive bleeding through the nose, mouth and ears and can lead to organ failure.

Initial symptoms include headaches, fevers and vomiting.

MSF added that around five percent of quake patients in Bagh were suffering from bronchitis or pneumonia, and warned that people would die of exposure if immediate help does not arrive in the rugged areas hit by the disaster.

"It is not an outbreak yet but MSF's fear is that it will go faster if there is not proper sheltering for all these people," Tierlink said.

"Another problem is that you have to hospitalise these patients. You cannot send them out of the hospital because there is no proper shelter for them" and their illnesses could recur, he added.

"People will die of exposure, they will die of pneumonia. We can feel it in our toes," said MSF's medical coordinator for Bagh, Marc Joolen.

Joolen said the international community needed to donate more and regretted the "lukewarm response" so far.

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