In a large swath of the world, animals, including cows, sheep and goats, can carry a nasty virus: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. They get it from ticks. The animals don’t show symptoms, but if a person gets the virus it can make them really sick, with a headache, fever, severe bruising and bleeding. Up to a third of patients die, usually within two weeks.
There’s no vaccine for people or animals, and although an antiviral medication has shown promise in studies, the only proven treatment is supportive care.
Afghanistan’s health ministry reported 66 confirmed human cases of the virus this year; 12 of the patients died. Other countries at high risk include Turkey, Iran, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Each year, Bulgaria reports about ten cases. Between 2002 and 2015, Turkey reported almost 10,000 cases. But in many places, it’s hard to get reliable numbers.
People can pick up the disease if they’re bitten by an infected Hyalomma tick or if they come into contact with the blood and organs of an infected animal, particularly during slaughter. And, as with Ebola, people can pass the virus to each other through contact with infected bodily fluids.
Studies have shown that during Eid al-Adha, opportunities for people to pick up the virus from animals, or from their ticks, go way up.
Around the holiday, a lot of animals are transported and traded, sometimes across borders and often from rural areas to urban ones. That makes it easier for other animals, like rodents or pets, to pick up the virus. And the mingling of livestock can also introduce new variants of the virus.
The way animals are slaughtered on the holiday adds to the risk. In many countries, official slaughterhouses offer safe ways of handling the animals. But during Eid al-Adha, some celebrants opt to slaughter …