First case of tick-borne SFTS discovered in Taiwan

70-year-old Taiwanese man diagnosed with potentially fatal virus after being bitten by tick

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SFTS most commonly spread by tick bites. (CDC photo)

SFTS most commonly spread by tick bites. (CDC photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced Tuesday (Nov. 19) that a 70-year-old Taiwanese man has been confirmed as having the first case of the tick-borne Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) in the country.

According to the CDC, the patient has not traveled outside of Taiwan in recent months but enjoys regular hiking activities. He sought help at a hospital after showing signs of fever and vomiting and is currently receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.

The deputy director of the CDC, Philip Lo (羅一鈞), said the potentially fatal virus' primary vectors of transmission are ticks but that it can also be spread through direct contact with patients with severe symptoms. Lo said the disease first surfaced in China in 2009 and has since been discovered in Japan, South Korea, and now Taiwan.

Lo pointed out that the incubation period of SFTS averages between 7 to 14 days and that the infected patients will suffer fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, as well as decreased appetite. He added that patients' organs could lose their function, resulting in death if the infection is left untreated, reported Liberty Times.

Currently there are no antiviral drugs for SFTS, but with efficient treatment, the mortality rate can be minimized. As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC has assembled a medical team specializing in the tick-borne virus and will continue to observe the 68 people who have been in close contact with the patient.

A professor at the National Taiwan University College of Public Health, Wang Hsi-chieh (王錫杰), said ticks like to live in the grass and forests, so the public should avoid such areas while wearing shorts. Hikers are also encouraged to carry government-approved insect repellents, such as DEET and picaridin, to lower their chances of infection.