India’s top virology lab has confirmed a 35-year-old nurse who died of extensive internal bleeding at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Wednesday was suffering from Congo fever, a contagious disease with a high fatality rate.
The man, who worked in a private Jodhpur hospital, was among five members of the nursing staff who developed severe flu. Two nurses showed a fall in blood platelet count and suffered internal bleeding with one dying on Sunday in Jodhpur while the other died of multi-organ failure after being admitted to AIIMS with Ebola-like symptoms.
His blood samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune that ruled out the deadly disease and confirmed Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever on Thursday. The samples had already tested negative for the Ebola virus at Delhi’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on late Wednesday.
India’s last Congo fever outbreak was reported from Ahmedabad in 2011 with four fatalities. Neighbouring Pakistan has had more regular cases of the disease with seven deaths last year. The infection kills up to 40% of those infected.
AIIMS, however, played down fears of its staff getting infected.
“Whenever there is an unidentified infected disease reported in the emergency ward, all recommended precautions are taken,” said AIIMS director MC Misra. “All 12 people who were involved in treating him were given a dose of the antiviral ribavirin to prevent infection.”
People who came in contact with the patient included medical staff in the emergency ward, diagnostic rooms and his personal ward in the department of medicine.
The health ministry sent a three-member team from the NCDC to Rajasthan on Thursday to investigate the disease outbreak. “Health authorities in Gujarat and Rajasthan have been alerted for the diagnosis of Congo fever and precautionary guidelines have been shared with the states,” said a ministry statement.
Symptoms for Congo fever include high fever, headache, muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and internal and external bleeding. Congo fever is transmitted to people primarily from ticks and livestock animals with an incubation period of up to nine days. Human-to-human transmission takes up to two weeks.