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  • Kivistö, Kanerva (2022)
    Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is an emerging, tick-borne viral pathogen. Found on three continents, it is the most widespread of all tick-borne pathogens, but accurate geographical limits and epidemiology in Africa are still mostly unknown. Ticks act as both vectors and reservoirs, and the transmission cycle involves both wild and domestic animals and may occasionally spill over to humans. Further healthcare-related infections from human to human are common. With a high mortality rate and no cure or vaccine, CCHF is considered a major public health threat in endemic countries. This licentiate thesis consists of a literature review and an experimental work section. The literature review covers the basics of tick ecology, tick-borne diseases and viral haemorrhagic fevers with a focus on Africa and Kenya. These are used as foundations to understand CCHF in detail, encompassing virology, epidemiology, diagnostics, symptoms, treatment and prevention. The experimental work entails PCR-screening of ticks collected from South-eastern Kenya for the CCHF virus. The main objective of the study was to find whether CCHF is circulating in free-roaming ticks collected from two conservancies in the Taita Hills area. Taita Hills are located in Taita-Taveta county, near the Helsinki University research centre in Wundanyi. The ticks were collected by the Vapalahti virology team in 2018. This thesis involved the RNA extraction and measurement from the ticks and screening for CCHF virus with RT-qPCR. The results were negative for all 57 units of ticks processed. The study was a part of a larger research project, “Preparedness for emerging zoonotic infections in Kenya”. Previous publications on CCHF are lacking from this part of Kenya, so this study was a valuable part of primary research to establish the geographical limits and members of the enzootic cycle in Taita Hills. It would be essential to continue examining ticks from animal sources in addition to human serology, to further establish evidence of possible CCHF occurrence in the area. Mapping the prevalence and epidemiology of zoonotic and tick-borne pathogens is especially critical now, when climate change and diminishing biodiversity stir and alter disease emergence in an unprecedented manner.