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Tick-borne virus outbreak spreading in China: Explained

A new infectious virus disease called Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), caused by a tick-borne virus, infected nearly 60 people and killed seven people in China.

Cases have been reported in East China’s Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, reported state-run Global Times. While more than 37 contracted with the SFTS in Jiangsu earlier this year, 23 people were found to be infected in Anhui.

The disease infects the human body through tick-borne bites. However, Virgoloists have warned of a possible human-to-human transmission similar to the ongoing COVID-19. The virus is not new, people were infected earlier, but recent cases suggest a revival of the disease.

SFTS virus

The SFTS virus that transmits to humans through tick-borne bites belongs to the Bunyavirus family. The first case of the virus was reported back in 2009 in Hubei and Henan provinces of China. A team of researchers working on viruses emerging from China identified it.

According to a report published by Nature, the fatality rate of the virus is nearly 30 percent. In the most recent outbreak, the fatality rate was between 16 and 30 percent, according to the China Information System for Disease Control and Prevention.

An Asian tick called Haemaphysalis longicornis is believed to be the primary carrier of the virus. People in Rural China who are into farming, hunting, and pet owners are often infected by this. Scientists found out that the insect gets transmitted to humans from animals such as cattle, goats, sheep. 

SFTS symptoms 

In 2011, a group of Chinese research studies found that once a patient falls ill, the incubation period of the virus is anywhere between seven to 13 days. The infected patients experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue, chill, diarrhoea, headache, gingival haemorrhage, lymphadenopathy, anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, myalgia, vomiting, and conjunctival congestion.

An infected patient at first starts showing early signs such as fever, leukocytopenia, or thrombocytopenia. In severe cases, patients face the risk of multi-organ failure, hemorrhagic manifestation, and central nervous system (CNS) symptoms.

Cases outside China

When the virus broke out in 2009, it eventually spread to some East Asian nations including Japan and South Korea. In 2013, nearly 36 cases were reported in South Korea and later in 2017, the number rose to 270.

Besides, in the virus’ originating country, China, 71 cases were reported in 2010. The number rose to 2600 in 2016. Meanwhile in Japan new cases increased by 50 percent from 2016 to 2017.

As new cases began to rise in these three countries, health officials started educating local doctors and citizens about the health risks posed by tick bites. This helped in spreading awareness about the disease and resulted in reducing the spread and fatality rate of the virus.

STFS treatment

Currently, no vaccine is available to stop the spread of the virus. The vaccine is in the development stage. The antiviral drug Ribavirin is used to treat infected patients as it is known to show better results when started using during the out-break.

China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various government institutions and authorities are asking people not to wear shorts while walking through grass, woods, and in the jungle, to avoid contact with the ticks. 

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