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New tick-borne virus in China’

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    17th Aug, 2020

A new infection disease called Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), caused by a tick-borne virus, has killed seven and infected at least 60 in China, setting off alarm bells among health officials in the country.

Context

A new infection disease called Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), caused by a tick-borne virus, has killed seven and infected at least 60 in China, setting off alarm bells among health officials in the country.

About

  • What is SFTS Virus?
  • Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) belongs to the Bunyavirus family and is transmitted to humans through tick bites.
  • The virus was first identified in China over a decade ago. The first few cases were reported in rural areas of Hubei and Henan provinces in 2009.
  • Prime vector: Virologists believe an Asian tick called Haemaphysalis longicornis is the primary vector, or carrier, of the virus.
  • Peak time: The disease is known to spread between March and November. The total number of infections generally peaks between April and July.
  • Who are vulnerable? Farmers, hunters and pet owners are particularly vulnerable to the disease as they regularly come in contact with animals that may carry the Haemaphysalis longicornis tick.
  • Transmission: Scientists have found that the virus is often transmitted to humans from animals like goats, cattle, deer and sheep.
  • Despite being infected by the virus, animals generally do not show any symptoms associated with SFTSV.

What are Ticks?

  • Ticks are blood-sucking bugs, living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians.
  • They are mostly found in bushes, grass and shrubs. The eight-legged bugs are arachnids -- related to spiders.
  • According to the WHO, ticks are vectors of a large number of diseases including
    • relapsing fever
    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
    • Q fever
    • Lyme disease

Fatality rate

  • The current case fatality rate rests between approximately 16 and 30 per cent.
  • Due to the rate at which it spreads and its high fatality rate, SFTS has been listed among the top 10 priority diseases blue print by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

What are the symptoms?

  • Incubation period: The incubation period is anywhere between seven and 13 days after the onset of the illness.
  • Patients suffering from the disease usually experience a whole range of symptoms, including, fever, fatigue, chill, headache, lymphadenopathy, anorexia, nausea, myalgia, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, gingival hemorrhage, conjunctival congestion, and so on.
  • Some of the early warning signs of the disease include severe fever, thrombocytopenia or low platelet count and leukocytopenia, which is low white blood cell count.
  • The risk factors observed in more serious cases include multi-organ failure, hemorrhagic manifestation and the appearance of central nervous system (CNS) symptoms.

Is it treatable?

  • While a vaccine to treat the disease is yet to be successfully developed, the antiviral drug Ribavirin is known to be effective in treating the illness.
  • In order to avoid contracting the illness, various government authorities, including China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urges the general public to avoid wearing shorts while walking through tall grass, the woods, and any other environment where ticks are likely to thrive.
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