Iraqi citizens choose chicken and fish over beef after rise in viral disease 

Black and white picture of chickens with one standing in the middle, animal news
Chickens, photo: Joaquin Corbalan via Canva

People in Iraq are choosing fish and chicken over cow, sheep and goat meat over fears of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) outbreak in the country.

CCHF is a viral disease of zoonotic origin, which is primarily transmitted to people from ticks and infected cows, sheep and goats. People working with farm animals and closely handling animal body parts are at the most risk of catching the disease, such as workers at slaughterhouses and butchers.

The disease causes bleeding from multiple areas of the body and can have very high death rates. Since March, the disease has caused 120 infections and 20 deaths, according to the Iraqi health ministry.

“In recent days, hemorrhagic fever has spread among cows and in various meats. So there’s been an increased demand for fish and chicken in general. At the present time at home, we no longer buy meat because of this situation,” Adel Sami told news agency Reuters at a fish and chicken market in the Iraqi city of Basra.

“There’s more demand for fish after the spread of this disease, we’ve been selling more. For example, we used to previously sell 25-30 kilograms a day, now we’re selling 70-80 kilograms. Even with the price hikes – demand is still high for fish and chicken,” vendor Hamzah Sater said.

“We reduced our meat [consumption] by 80-90 percent. We’re now buying fish, but fish is expensive. We’re afraid to buy meat – we’re avoiding that and going to get fish,” Basra resident Akil Bahij said.

Even though the government tried to convince its citizens that safety measures have been taken, people remain reluctant to buy meat.

“People are reluctant to buy meat as a result of the spread of the hemorrhagic fever. As an alternative, citizens have been resorting to buying fish and chicken,” Samah Abdel Ali, media coordinator at the Basra Agricultural Directorate, said.

“We can reassure people that meat is not dangerous to human health if it is handled correctly,” Samah added.

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