The Japanese Health Ministry said this week that it had identified three more cases of people infected with a mysterious tick-borne virus. This brings the total number of cases to eight, and while the first five were all deaths, these three people, infected between 2005 and 2012, all recovered.
The virus causes severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or SFTS, and symptoms are said to usually develop within two weeks. While there is no vaccine at this time, the virus was first discovered in China in 2009 and until now has been seen as transmitted by mite or tick bites. But of the people in Japan who have died, no bite marks were found, and they no records of recent travel outside the country. Likewise, the Health Ministry has confirmed that the strain of the virus has genetic origins from Japan, not another country. Of those that died, the first was in the summer of 2012, while the others were in the fall, but the identification of the tick-related virus as the cause wasn’t made until February. The Health Ministry is still looking into another five suspected cases.
The three surviving infection cases all occurred before the summer 2012 death. The first was a man in his 50s from Nagasaki Prefecture who became ill in November 2005, followed by a man in his 80s in Saga Prefecture, and a woman in her 80s in Kochi Prefecture, in August 2010 and April 2012, respectively. The three were all hospitalized and received treatment, eventually recovering. As the second and third deaths were confirmed, an official from the Health Ministry said that he believed it wasn’t necessary to be concerned about the infection’s spread across the country. While levels of concern should certainly be kept in check, as it’s obvious the virus can be treated, it’s also clear that the number of identified cases is rising faster than expected.
[via Jiji Press]