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'Congo virus doesn't spread as fast as H1N1'

The virus that causes Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is slow moving and will not spread across the country as fast as the H1N1 swine flu virus, experts have said. However, the mortality rate among those affected by Congo virus will be far more than H1N1.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Dr A C Mishra, director of the National Institute of Virology, Pune, said different viruses have different characteristics. Influenza viruses like H1N1 have very high transmissibility rate and could spread across a country or nations in no time. "That's not the case with the Congo fever virus. It is slow moving and can be contained within hospital or ICU settings with proper containment measures," Dr Mishra said.

"However, the CCHF virus has tremendously high pathogenecity which means mortality rate is very high among those infected. In comparison, H1N1 did not kill that many as it infected. So chances of the CCHF spreading across India from Gujarat - the place where it has infected humans for the first time - is very low," he added.

Indian Council of Medical Research ( ICMR) director general Dr V M Katoch told TOI on Sunday that it was a case of local transmission and the fact that ticks carried the virus was a very dangerous proposition.

So is there a vaccine available against CCHF? A health ministry official said, "There is no safe and effective vaccine available for human use. Ribavirine is the most effective drug and is widely available in the market as it is also used to treat Hepatitis C."

A six-member central team of experts headed by Dr Veena Mittal of National Centre for Communicable Diseases (NCDC) returned to Delhi on Sunday from Gujarat.

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