Japan’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that it had confirmed two more deaths were caused by an unknown viral infection transmitted by mites. With the number of deaths now at three, the two men, one from Ehime Prefecture, the other from Miyazaki Prefecture, join the first victim, a woman from Yamaguchi Prefecture. All died last fall from the infection, known as severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome.
The virus was first discovered in China in 2009, but until now has never turned up in Japan, and the three who died had no records of recent travel overseas. Fortunately the ministry dismissed the concerns over whether this infection might be spreading across Japan, as it explains that these deaths were only discovered as authorities re-examined overlooked cases.
Further adding to the complications, however, is that genetic tests on the virus have shown that the three victims died of a strain that originated in Japan, not China. The Health Ministry says there is a 12% fatality rate, but there is no vaccine at this point to prevent infection. Officials say that in addition to the fever, symptoms can include nausea, depletion of blood platelets, a decrease in appetite, and headaches. While the virus is most often transmitted by mites, it can also be spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids.