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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Ebola style virus hits Pakistan
A patient suffering from Congo Virus in hospital in Quetta
Health authorities are requesting extra resources to cope with the outbreak
A highly contagious disease similar to the dreaded Ebola virus has broken out along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees
Afghan refugees are particularly at risk from the outbreak
Health authorities are warning of an epidemic among the thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing their homeland in fear of US military strikes.

On Thursday, a Pakistani man became the eighth person to die since June of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).

Dr Taj Mohammad of the Fatimah Jinnah Chest and General Hospital in Quetta said his facility had received a total of almost 70 cases this year.

CCHF is less lethal than the Ebola virus but has similarly horrific symptoms, including massive haemorrhaging from every orifice.

Refugee risk

Most of the latest cases have been reported in Baluchistan, which has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of Afghans fleeing drought and war.

Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)
First noted by Russian scientists in the Crimea in 1944
Isolated in 1956 in a patient in the Congo
Usual route of infection via the bite of the Hyalomma tick
Can be passed from person to person
Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, vomiting, and pains in the stomach and lower back
This is followed by haemorrhages, nosebleeds, and other blood loss
Seven out ten people who are infected die.
"It's unheard of - very unusual," Dr Mohammad told the Reuters news agency.

"There's a real risk of an epidemic among Afghan refugees," he was quoted as saying.

Seven out of ten people infected by Congo Virus die.

The horrendous sanitary conditions provide an ideal breeding ground for the virus, which is spread by small insects from animals to humans.

Pakistan has closed its borders with Afghanistan, but has already accepted more refugees than it says it can cope with.

Extra resources

The head of Fatimah Jinnah Hospital, Akhlaq Hussain, told the AFP news agency he had written to the federal government appealing for extra resources to cope with the outbreak.

The hospital has set up a special isolation ward.

The virus has surfaced before in the area and was thought to have been brought under control.

The BBC's Jon Brain
"Medical workers say drastic steps are needed"
See also:

04 Oct 01 | Americas
Bush pledges Afghan aid
28 Sep 01 | South Asia
Eyewitness: 'Heat, dust and desolation'
02 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Ebola cure possible
20 Oct 00 | Medical notes
Ebola and other tropical viruses
15 Oct 99 | Health
Clues on Ebola's origin
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