The disease has claimed the lives of nine people over the past three weeks in the central and northern provinces of Çorum, Tokat, Kastamonu and Yozgat. The most recent case was in the Central Anatolian province of Çankırı, where 70-year-old Cemile Tiryaki died after she was taken to a hospital with a suspected case of CCHF.
Turkish Health Care Workers’ Union (Türk Sağlık-Sen) President Önder Kahveci told Sunday’s Zaman that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock should take more action in high-risk areas.
“Distributing tick repellent and spray for ticks in rural areas, where contracting the disease is most common, is not enough. Ministry officials should conduct widespread education campaigns to raise awareness of people about the disease,” Kahveci further stated.
The recent tick-borne disease cases have already forced the Ministry of Health to step up action to fight the disease, as it has recently produced a map showing regions where CCHF cases are most common, with the majority of the areas being in the Central Anatolian and central Black Sea regions. Among the provinces that have a high number of CCHF cases are Çankırı, Çorum, Tokat, Sivas, Yozgat, Kastamonu and Karabük.
The ministry has selected 13,000 villages in the first stage, where 10,000 health officials will carry out education and awareness campaigns and distribute leaflets since raising awareness is an important component in effectively combating the disease. The leaflets include information about the nature of the disease and how to prevent tick bites and the necessary steps to be taken in the event of a tick bite. The officials will also provide information on how to remove the tick from the body.
Meanwhile, 10,000 pheasants, raised in the Black Sea province of Samsun, will soon be released into the wild in a number of provinces that suffer from tick-borne diseases. Pheasants are considered useful in destroying ticks. A total of 6,576 people have been diagnosed with the CCHF virus and 340 died of the disease since 2002 when CCHF was first observed in Turkey. The CCHF virus is normally transferred to people through bites from infected ticks or via direct contact with infected blood. The virus is often fatal for people with infected people having a mortality rate of 30 percent. However, this rate is lower in animals. Symptoms of the infection are sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and headaches. A body rash and bleeding from the bowels and gums may also accompany these symptoms in severe cases.
Shepherds, farmers, cattle owners, campers, picnickers and health officials working in affected areas are at high risk of contracting the disease. Ayhan Korak, a specialist in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology, told Sunday’s Zaman that people who have come into contact with animals or spent a long time outdoors, especially in open fields or forested areas, should check their bodies carefully.
Korak warned that in the event of a tick bite, people should not kill the ticks by hand or apply cologne or similar substances to the skin to remove the ticks.
“The tick can be removed from the skin by tweezers or a similar instrument. The person should grasp the tick above its head as close to the skin surface as possible,” Korak said adding that the area of the bite should immediately be cleaned with a disinfectant like alcohol or iodine.
Korak also noted that the longer the tick is attached to the body, the higher the risk of transmission of the virus into the bloodstream. “If you are able to pull the tick out within the first 12 hours, the risk of contracting a disease is at its lowest,” Korak further stated.