New virus spreading via tick-bites surfaces in China, 60 affected and 7 dead till now

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Shikha Chaurasia

New Delhi, August 8, 2020: While the world is still grappled with the spread of the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), the Chinese daily ‘Global Times’ has reported a new type of virus, possibly spreading through tick-bites in China. This news has come as a shock to many health authorities and other countries.

According to the news report, this virus has already killed seven people, and more than 60 are affected by contagion. This virus has been identified as Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Bunyavirus (SFTSV).

According to Chinese media reports, during the first half of the year, more than 37 people have been affected by the virus in East China’s Jiangsu province and later 23 people were found affected by SFTSV in East China’s Anhui Province.

The Chinese authorities believe that SFTSV is not a new virus. Chinese researchers had isolated the pathogens of the Bunyavirus category in 2011. Many virologists believe that this virus may have spread from ticks to humans, and the transmission of SFTSV between humans is also possible.

Dr Sheng Jifang from an affiliated hospital with the Zhejiang University says that the possibility of human to human transmission cannot be ruled out. It is possible that an affected person can pass the virus to another via blood or mucous.

Doctors have warned the people that the major route via which the virus can spread is through tick bites. They also said that there was no need to panic over this virus as long as people remain cautious.

Virologists at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the United States of America (USA) have been studying this Chinese-origin virus for a few years now. According to a Times now news report, “Over the past ten years, there has been a marked increase in cases of severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome in East Asia. This tick-borne haemorrhagic fever presents along with clinical signs including high fever and leukopenia.”

“In addition to humans, the virus has also been detected with shared genetic homology in farm animals including goats, cattle, horses and pigs. Furthermore, several genotypes of severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) are currently co-circulating between humans and animals,” the report stated.

Mortality rate according to NCBI report : “In China, where the virus was first detected in rural areas in 2009, the SFTSV mortality rate has been reported between as low as 6 percent and higher than 30 percent, especially in immunocompromised patients. Moreover, this virus has been isolated in neighbouring countries including Japan and South Korea where the fatality rates in 2015 were more than 30 percent,” the NCBI report has stated.

The NCBI has also said, “SFTSV poses an imminent threat to public health due to its wide range of animal hosts and the ability to cause severe infections in humans, especially in the elderly. Continuous monitoring for and molecular detection of this virus is important for the correct diagnosis of SFTSV infection.”

Can this virus cause an epidemic or a pandemic?

Though as of now, there is no cited danger of this virus having the potential to become an epidemic or a pandemic like the novel Coronavirus, but it can spread via migratory birds.

Migratory birds travel great distances for breeding purposes and food and they can carry various infections with them. They are well-known transmitters of infectious diseases like Lyme disease, influenza and West Nile virus. Since they can carry various parasites, it is possible for them to disseminate this virus via ticks to other regions.