Uganda Confirms Case of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever: What Is It?

A patient with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in 1969.
A patient with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in 1969. (Image credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty)

A 9-year-old boy in Uganda has tested positive for a potentially life-threatening disease called Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, according to news reports. But what is this disease, and how is it different from other hemorrhagic fevers, like Ebola?

Yesterday (Jan. 15), health officials in Uganda confirmed a case of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in a boy who had been hospitalized in the central Ugandan district of Nakaseke, according to Outbreak News Today. The boy is in isolation at the hospital and is recovering with treatment, Outbreak News Today said. Although another child, a 9-year-old girl in Uganda, was initially suspected to have died from the same illness, the Uganda Ministry of Health said she tested negative for the disease.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever, a group of illnesses that affect many organs in the body, damage blood vessels and can cause bleeding (hemorrhage), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Viral hemorrhagic fevers are caused by several distinct families of viruses. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is caused by a tick-borne virus called Nairovirus, which belongs to a family of viruses known as Bunyaviridae, the CDC says. In contrast, Ebola is caused by ebolaviruses, which belong to the virus family Filoviridae. [The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth]

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever has a widespread geographic range: It is found in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and some Asian countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The disease is spread either through tick bites or through contact with the blood of an infected animal, the WHO says. The disease can also spread from person to person if someone has close contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected individual.

The disease can cause sudden fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, according to the WHO. Other symptoms include a fast heart rate, enlarged lymph nodes and a "petechial rash," or a rash caused by bleeding into the skin, the WHO says. As the disease progresses, patients may develop larger bruises and may experience other bleeding problems, such as severe nosebleeds or bleeding from injection sites (for example, if someone was given a shot or an IV). The disease has a fatality rate of 10 to 40 percent, the WHO says. For comparison, Ebola has a fatality rate of 25 to 90 percent in past outbreaks, according to the WHO.

There is no specific treatment for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Patients with the disease are given supportive care, such as fluids, electrolytes, oxygen and treatments to help with blood flow, the CDC says. A drug known as ribavirin has also shown some benefits for patients with the disease, according to the CDC.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.