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Alert! New Tick-Borne Viral Fever Reported In China, 7 Dead

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new infectious disease caused by a tick-borne virus has been reported in China. Officials have said that the viral fever has caused the death of seven people so far and 60 people have been infected.

What Is Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Bunyavirus (SFTSV)?

According to news reports, the new unknown virus is believed to be passed through tick-bites. Identified as Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Bunyavirus, the virus was first supposedly reported in the first half of 2020 [1]. More than 37 people in East China's Jiangsu Province have contracted SFTSV in the first half of the year, and later 23 people were found infected in East China's Anhui Province.

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS or SFTSV) is an emerging infectious zoonosis in China, Japan and South Korea [2]. It is a newly identified bunyavirus that appears to be carried by ticks such as the Haemaphysalis longicornis.

The Bunyaviridae or bunyavirus is divided into arthropod-borne viruses called the arboviruses, and rodent-borne viruses called the roboviruses [3]. These bunyaviruses cause several diseases in human and domestic animals, such as [4]:

  • fever,
  • hemorrhagic fever,
  • renal failure,
  • encephalitis,
  • meningitis,
  • blindness, and
  • congenital defects (in domestic animals).

SFTS virus (SFTSV) is a comparatively new member of the genus Phlebovirus in the family Bunyaviridae. It is similar to the Bhanja virus, a tick-borne human pathogenic phlebovirus that causes febrile illness and meningitis [5].

What Do The Reports Say?

According to the media reports, the viral fever came into media attention with the case of Wang, a woman in Nanjing who showed onset of symptoms such like fever, coughing and doctors found a decline of leukocyte, blood platelet inside of her body [6]. Although Wang's condition was treated and cured with a month's treatment at the hospital, the virus has already spread to other regions.

It was also stated that the virus is not a new one and researchers had isolated pathogens of the virus in 2011 and virologists suggest that it may be passed to human beings by ticks and that the virus can be transmitted between humans [7].

After reading the reports and claims, it can be pointed out that,

  • The possibility of human to human transmission could not be excluded [8].
  • Infected patients can pass the virus to others via blood or mucous.
  • Tick bites are the primary transmission route.
  • The virus has a wide range of animal hosts.
  • The virus can cause severe infections, especially in the elderly.
  • Susceptibility to infection may vary depending on several risk factors, including patient age and immune status [9].
  • Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent the spread of SFTSV.

Scientists who were studying the virus added, "Over the past ten years, there has been a marked increase in cases of severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome in East Asia. This tick-borne hemorrhagic fever presents along with clinical signs, including high fever and leukopenia."

They continued, "In addition to humans, the virus has also been detected with shared genetic homology in farm animals including goats, cattle, horses, and pigs. Furthermore, several genotypes of severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) are currently co-circulating between humans and animals" [10].

On A Final Note...

SFTS poses an imminent threat to public health due to its wide range of animal hosts and the severity of the infections. The doctors added that as long as people remain cautious, there is no need to over panic over the viral fever.

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