Doctors sound alarm as deadly tick-borne virus re-emerges in China, kills 7 so far
As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough, Chinese doctors are warning that the country’s population is threatened by yet another virus. The infection is passed by tick bites, but could also be transmitted between humans, experts say.
The SFTS virus has already infected around 60 people this year in China’s eastern Jiangsu and Anhui Provinces, and seven of them have died.
Symptoms of the potentially deadly infection include fever, cough, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, as well as a decline in white blood cells.
SFTS isn’t exactly new, as the first cases of the tick-borne disease were reported in rural parts of the Hubei and Henan provinces back in 2009, and Chinese virologists isolated its pathogen in 2011.
The current case fatality rate of the re-emerging disease is between approximately 16 and 30 percent, according to the China Information System for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the infection is primarily transmitted through tick bites, transition between humans cannot be excluded, Sheng Jifang, a doctor from a hospital under Zhejiang University, told the Global Times, explaining that it could be passed through blood or mucous.
A 2015 outbreak of the same virus in Japan and South Korea had a mortality rate of more than 30 percent in both countries. The virus is known to be particularly harmful for older or immunocompromised people.
The doctors also warn that tick bites are a major transmission route not only for SFTS, but other infections as well. They say there is no reason to panic, however, if people exercise caution.
In 2018, the World Health Organization included SFTS on its list of the diseases prioritized for research together with the likes of Ebola, SARS and Zika. Those viruses were singled out due to their high potential to cause a public health emergency and lack of efficacious drugs or vaccines against them.
In December, China’s Wuhan became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with the disease quickly spreading around the globe, infecting 19 million and killing more than 719,000.