Expert rules out lockdowns for UK as fears deadly virus sweeping Europe is heading its way

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever has been spreading across Europe.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever has been spreading across Europe. Photo credit: Getty Images

An expert has advised it would not be appropriate for the United Kingdom to go into lockdown if cases of a deadly tick-borne virus make its way onto its shores.

New cases of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) are spreading across Europe and there are fears it could soon move to the United Kingdom.

CCHF is a widespread disease caused by a tick-borne virus that causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks, with a case fatality rate of 10–40 percent, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

While endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia, there have been fatal cases in Spain and Pakistan.

During a hearing at the UK Parliament, James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said it is "highly likely" there will at some point be cases of CCHF in the UK. It's believed that climate change could be causing the disease to expand out of its usual territories.

The majority of cases have occurred in people who work in the livestock industry, such as agricultural workers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians.

Since the Parliament hearing, Prof Wood spoke to the UK news outlet The Mirror and stressed uncertainty remains around CCHF.

"There's a high level of uncertainty. There's a high level of uncertainty whether it's going to be five years, or 15, or 25 by the time it reaches UK," he said.

Prof Wood said migratory birds native to the UK have been known to carry ticks, which remains a concern for experts.

He told the outlet a lockdown will "not be appropriate in any way" to contain CCHF, as human-to-human transmission is less likely than the transmission of the virus by ticks.

There is currently no vaccine available for either people or animals.

The WHO says symptoms include sudden fever, muscle ache, neck pain, backache and headache. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and a sore throat are also possible symptoms.

Other clinical signs of the disease include a fast heart rate, enlarged lymph nodes and a rash in the mouth and throat.

Prof James said there are a number of measures you can take to prevent being bitten by a tick that may be carrying the disease including covering up so little skin is exposed when in tick-dense areas, like long grassland.

"None of us are trying to say, you know that 'we're all going to die' or 'we're all doomed'," Prof Wood told the outlet.

"It's just about being aware that because of the way the world is changing, we've got to be much more aware of these sorts of infections in the way that we haven't been in the past."