A new virus from China: Why are ticks dangerous?

(ORDO NEWS) — In China, an outbreak of the deadly SFTS virus, which is transmitted through tick bites, has been recorded. What are its symptoms and what else are ticks dangerous for.

In China, an outbreak of the SFTS virus, which is transmitted through ticks, was recorded, according to the Global Times.

In the first half of the year, more than 37 people were infected in eastern China, in Jiangsu province, and later 23 more cases were reported in Anhui province.

Seven people have died from the disease.

One of the infected complained of cough and fever. Doctors found a decrease in the level of white blood cells and platelets in her blood. The treatment took a month.

SFTS is not a new virus; Chinese scientists isolated it from the blood of patients back in 2009 and sequenced its genome. Five genotypes of the virus are currently known.

They are found in China, Japan and South Korea. The virus appears to have first emerged in China between 1918 and 1995 in the Dabi Mountains. Hence its second name is the Dabi virus.

The virus isn’t just dangerous to humans – it infects many mammals, including cats, mice, hedgehogs, weasels, opossums and yaks.

SFTS is transmitted by the ticks Haemaphysalis longicornis, Ixodes nipponensis, Amblyomma testudinarium and Rhipicephalus microplus, and through contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. It is not yet known whether other blood-sucking insects can transmit the virus.

Most infections occur in rural areas from March to November. Their greatest number falls on the period from April to June.

The lethality of the disease is 12%, in some regions it can reach up to 30%. The main symptoms are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, multiple organ failure, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), leukopenia (low white blood cell count), and elevated liver enzymes.

Cases of illness after obtaining the virus genome were reported in 2013 and 2017 in South Korea and Japan, but the 2020 outbreak was the largest.

However, the risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis from a tick is much higher. It is carried by ixodid ticks, which are found even in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Symptoms of the disease appear 4-14 days after the bite. Within 2-4 days, the infected suffers from fever, headache and muscle pain, nausea. At this stage, the disease can easily be confused with the flu.

A week after the disappearance of these symptoms, about a third of those infected enter the second phase of the disease, which includes paralysis of the central nervous system, including meningitis and encephalitis.

There is no specific treatment for tick-borne encephalitis, only supportive therapy can be resorted to. The most reliable measure to prevent tick-borne encephalitis is vaccination. Vaccinations are required for everyone who lives or travels to areas where tick-carriers of the virus are found.

They carry ixodid ticks and Lyme disease – tick-borne borreliosis. Immediately after the bite, a characteristic ring-shaped mark can be found on the skin, indicating infection.

It occurs in 60-80% of patients. The incubation period usually lasts 1-2 weeks, but can take only a few days or, conversely, stretch for months or even years.

The first symptoms of the disease, as with tick-borne encephalitis, are similar to the symptoms of influenza – headache and muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, fever. A characteristic symptom is the stiffness of the neck muscles.

After 1-3 months, in 10-15% of those infected, the disease enters the second phase, when signs of damage to the nervous system, heart and joints appear. Symptoms range from sleep and memory disorders to meningitis and facial paralysis.

The third stage of Lyme disease occurs in the period from six months to two years.

Its main manifestation is arthritis, accompanied by a slight fever.

It also increases the risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome and dementia.

Treatment is with antibiotics and supportive care to reduce complications. The prognosis is most favorable if treatment is started in the early stages.

Another tick-borne disease is human monocytic ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of infection with Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria become noticeable 1-3 weeks after the tick bite. They include headache, fever and chills, abdominal pain.

In the absence of treatment, lesions of the abdominal organs and the nervous system develop. In severe cases, death is possible. For treatment, antibiotics and drugs are used to remove toxic substances produced by bacteria from the body.

Human granulocytic anaplasmosis develops 3-21 days after the pathogen, the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum, enters the bloodstream. The disease is characterized by an acute onset with high fever, weakness, headache and muscle pain. The pressure drops, the heart rate drops.

Anicteric hepatitis develops in 80% of cases. One in ten patients has a rash over the body. Most patients complain of sore throat, itching and coughing.

In rare cases, the disease leads to kidney damage. It also weakens the body, creating favorable conditions for the development of bacterial, viral and fungal diseases. Rarely, death is possible.

There is no vaccination against the disease, but timely antibiotic therapy can avoid complications.

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