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Pakistani Health Officials Fear Outbreak of Contagious Virus - 2004-05-12

Pakistani health officials are warning that the country may have an outbreak of an often fatal disease known as Congo-Crimea hemorrhagic fever.

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) were called in following the deaths of three members of a family of nomadic tribes people in southwest Pakistan.

The WHO and health authorities in the affected province, Baluchistan, fear the Congo-Crimea hemorrhagic virus, a highly contagious and often fatal tick-borne disease, caused the deaths.

Provincial health chief, Dr. Pir Mohammed, said that because Pakistan does not have facilities to test for Congo fever, samples of the victims' blood have been sent to South Africa for analysis.

In the meantime, Dr. Mohammed added that the government is taking precautions in the affected regions and the provincial capital of Quetta.

?We have started health education and contact with the people and [are] watching such cases for emergency referral to the isolation ward,? he said. ?So we are on alert in Quetta, as well as for the districts.?

He says herdsmen in the area are also being asked to bathe their animals in insecticide in order to kill ticks that might spread the disease.

Dr. Mohammed adds that health officials are monitoring a small hospital in the town of Loralai, where the victims were first taken for treatment, to stop any possible spread of the virus there.

Baluchistan suffered a minor outbreak of Congo-Crimea fever two years ago, but Dr. Mohammed says this outbreak could prove more serious, assuming the current cases are confirmed.