A case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) was confirmed in a 54-year-old man from the Ventersdorp surrounds, North West province in the first week of May 2019. The man lives on a farm and removed a tick from his face before falling ill. The patient is recovering in the isolation ward of the Tshepong/Klerksdorp hospital. The diagnosis of CCHF was confirmed by laboratory testing at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. To date, no secondary cases of CCHF have been identified whilst contacts of the case are being monitored.
This is the third case of CCHF reported in South Africa for 2019 to date. The previous cases were Free State and Northern Cape provinces.
The disease has been known in South Africa since 1981 but is rare in humans and typically only a handful of cases are reported per year. CCHF is caused by a virus that is mostly transmitted to humans through bites of the hyalomma tick (or “bontpoot” tick), although exposures related to contact with infected animal tissues and blood have also been reported. CCHF is mostly reported in farmers, veterinarians, abattoir workers, hunters and other individuals who are at higher risk of exposure to the hyalomma ticks. It is recommended that insect repellents containing DEET are used to reduce tick bites.
The ticks that transmit the CCHF virus are different to those that transmit the bacteria that causes tick bite fever, a common infection in southern Africa, readily responsive to antibiotics. For more information on CCHF in South Africa, read the FAQ