ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Reports of a so-called "Ebola-like" virus spreading among refugees and residents along the Afghan-Pakistani border are misleading and have been blown out of proportion by the media, officials cautioned Friday.
The Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) "outbreak" reported in the city of Quetta is not uncommon in the area, is not nearly as widespread or contagious as reported, and is usually treatable with a "widely accessible cure," U.N. spokesman Eric Falt told a press conference Friday.
"The short answer is yes," Falt said, when asked by Fox News if the Western media had over-hyped the story. "If there is an outbreak, it certainly has to be checked. But we just don’t have that right now. I honestly don’t think we have the numbers that have been reported."
"People have to know that the disease exists in the region," Falt said, adding that the sickness primarily affects farmers and herders who spend much of their time in close proximity to livestock. The disease can be passed from humans to humans, but such cases are very rare, officials said.
Officials said Friday that two disease specialists from the World Health Organization went to Quetta this week to examine and draw blood samples from two Pakistanis suffering from the disease. The blood samples were being sent to a special WHO lab for further analysis.
But not a single case of the virus has appeared in the last month, according to officials, who also said that the disease has not been detected among Afghan refugees.
Media reports, widely picked up by the Western press in recent days, claimed 75 people, including 8 who have died, have been infected with CCHF, and said incidents of the disease were spreading.
The total number of suspected CCHF cases reported is actually 41 cases, with 12 deaths reported from March to October this year, according to the World Health Organization. An additional six cases, with two deaths, were reported in Afghanistan.
New cases of the disease were expected to drop or even disappear in the coming months with the onset of winter, which is expected to kill off the tick that carries the virus.