Novel bunyavirus re-emerges in China, kills seven

Tick-borne disease transmitted person to person, more than 60 reportedly hospitalized in China so far this year

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Health experts say tick-borne bunyavirus capable of human-to-human transmission. (Wikipedia photo)

Health experts say tick-borne bunyavirus capable of human-to-human transmission. (Wikipedia photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A highly pathogenic, tick-borne novel bunyavirus has reportedly re-emerged in China, hospitalizing more than 60 people and killing seven.

According to CNA, a 65-year-old tea farmer in the Chinese province of Jiangsu recently fell ill with a fever of 40 degrees Celsius and a constant cough. After being sent to the Jiangsu People's Hospital, she was diagnosed with Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), which is caused by the Huaiyangshan banyangvirus and characterized by a drop in blood platelets.

The hospital said the woman was the 37th SFTS patient it has received this year. Meanwhile, several other Chinese provinces have reported similar cases this year, with Anhui being the most affected, confirming 23 patients and five deaths since April.

Last November, Taiwan confirmed its first-ever SFTS case. The patient, a man in his 70s, developed a fever and experienced severe vomiting. He had no recent history of international travel but frequently went hiking in the mountains, according to Liberty Times.

First discovered in China in 2010, the novel bunyavirus can be transmitted person-to-person and has a fatality rate of 10 percent, according to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The incubation period of SFTS is 7 to 14 days, and common symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite.

Since tick bites are the virus' primary vector of transmission, the CDC advises the Taiwanese public to avoid wearing shorts in tall grass, wooded areas, and other environments where ticks are likely to be found. It also pointed out that there are currently no antiviral drugs for SFTS but that with efficient treatment, the mortality rate can be minimized, reported New Talk.


Chinese provinces (in orange) reporting cases of SFTS this year. (Wikipedia photo)