Beware of Tick-Borne Virus


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

By Loveson Lakhani

As governments across the world continue to grapple with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more the 18 million people around the world and killed over than six hundred thousand people within seven months, China – where cases of the deadly infection were first reported, is now facing a new health threat.

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

A large number of the cases reported were concentrated in East China’s Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, as local media reported. While more than 37 people were diagnosed with SFTS in Jiangsu in the early months of 2020, and 23 were later found to be infected in Anhui.

While the disease is transferred to humans through tick bites, Chinese virologists have warned that human-to-human transmission of the virus cannot be ruled out. Unlike SARS-CoV-2 however, this is not the first time the SFTS virus has infected people. The recent spate of cases merely marks a re-emergence of the disease.

What is the 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 by a team of researchers in China over a decade ago. The first few cases were reported in rural areas of Hubei and Henan provinces in 2009.

The team of researchers identified the virus by examining blood samples obtained from a cluster of people exhibiting similar symptoms. According to a report by Nature, the virus killed at least 30 per cent of those infected. The current case fatality rate rests between approximately 16 and 30 per cent, according to the China Information System for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 Organization (WHO).

Virologists believe an Asian tick called Haemaphysalis longicornis is the primary vector, or carrier, of the virus. The disease is known to spread between March and November. Researchers have found that the total number of infections generally peaks between April and July.

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. 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. The scientists opine that this disease transmits from human to human through blood and mucous.

The Bunyaviridae are divided into arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) and rodent-borne viruses (roboviruses). Bunyaviruses cause several diseases of human and domestic animals, including fever, hemorrhagic fever, renal failure, encephalitis, meningitis, blindness, and, in domestic animals, congenital defects.

After the infection patient will show the sign and symptoms of this disease like low platelets count and leukocyte declination in the blood. In addition there are some more symptoms like muscle ache, headache, coughing and fatigue.

We can save us by reducing the contamination which is caused by ticks. We should destroy the ticks through spraying the liquid chemicals and the powder forms on the grounds. Also we should care our animals from ticks.

If there is any animal which is surrounded by ticks we should clear all the areas and get rid from ticks to save the animal and humans from this disease.


The writer is a Ph.D. student at Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam Sindh


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