First UK victim of deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever was a 'hard working' Afghan asylum seeker

38-year-old died in a London hospital on Saturday, two days after laboratory tests confirmed he had the disease

John Hall
Monday 08 October 2012 17:36
Sporadic infection of people is usually caused by Hyalomma tick bite.
Sporadic infection of people is usually caused by Hyalomma tick bite.

Tributes have been paid to a married father who died in the UK’s first case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

The 38-year-old man, who has not been named, died in a London hospital on Saturday two days after laboratory tests confirmed he had the deadly disease.

He had returned to the UK from his native Afghanistan on Tuesday via a connecting flight from Dubai.

His friend Mohammed Asif said he was an Afghan national who came to Britain seeking asylum several years ago and lived with his wife and young son, aged around five or six, in Glasgow, where he owned a garage in the east end.

Mr Asif said the man had been in Afghanistan to attend his brother's wedding in Samangan Province.

Concerns have now been raised about three of his family members in the village of Aibak, Afghanistan, who are said to be displaying symptoms of the fever.

Mr Asif, acting chairman of the Scottish Afghan Society, of which the man was a member, said: “I spoke with friends over there about two hours ago, one of his brothers is having the same problems he did - vomiting, body aches and pains in his ear…Two women from the family also have some symptoms.”

”We have tried to give them advice, telling them that anyone showing symptoms should stay away from the rest of the family,” Mr Asif added.

“We have also contacted a local politician and sent over British news reports to be translated, to let them know how dangerous it can be.

”His family have only found out he died in the last few hours.“

The man was picked up from Glasgow Airport on Tuesday by a friend, and within three hours was admitted to hospital.

He was initially treated in isolation at Gartnavel General Hospital's Brownlee Centre, which specialises in infectious disease, before being flown from Scotland to a high-security infectious disease unit at London's Royal Free Hospital.

Mr Asif said the man missed his original connecting flight from Dubai and stayed the night in a hotel, but did not leave the airport.

Mr Asif would not confirm the man's name as some members of his family in Afghanistan are still being notified.

”We are all quite shocked,“ he said.

”He was a very nice guy, very family orientated. He was hard working - he worked very hard to provide for his family.

“He was an active member of the Afghan community here in Scotland.

”About three weeks ago he helped me paint my living room, and now every time I look at it I just think of him.

“I spoke to him on the phone when he was in hospital as we weren't allowed in to see him, and he told me he thought he was going to die.

”He was very dejected. It must be a terrible disease, there's such a high mortality rate.“

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it has identified and contacted four passengers who may have had contact with the patient on the Emirates flight from Dubai to Glasgow.

The health board said two of them - one who remained in ”close proximity“ to the ill man during the flight - will be monitored on a daily basis for the next two weeks for any developments of relative symptoms.

The other two passengers do not require follow-up surveillance and the risk to all other passengers on the flight and the general public is ”extremely low“, it added.

The Health Protection Agency said it was the first laboratory-confirmed case of CCHF in the UK.

It is described as a widespread tick-borne viral disease which is especially common in East and West Africa and is fatal in up to 30% of human cases.

The onset is said to be sudden, with initial symptoms including headache, high fever, vomiting and back, joint and stomach pain.

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said: ”Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever can be acquired from an infected patient only through direct contact with their blood or body fluids, therefore there is no risk to the general public.“

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments