A Newly Emerging Tick-Borne Illness in Asia

Author: Mosquito Squad of Franklin & Framingham

The first cases of Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome or SFTS were reported in China in 2009 and since then the numbers have risen quickly.

In South Korea: there were 36 reported cases of SFTS in 2013 and 270 in 2017.

In China: 71 cases in 2010 and 2,600 in 2016.

In Japan: the number of cases increased by 50% in just one year.

The virus has proven to be very lethal, killing 30% of those infected in China that first year, and 30-50% of those that contracted it 4 years later in Japan and Korea. You are probably wondering what exactly SFTS is at this point, so let us give you a few details.

What is Tick-Borne SFTS?

SFTS is a tick-borne illness that is characterized by a high fever and thrombocytopenia or low platelet count. Platelets are the cells present in the blood that help it to clot. Thrombocytopenia can be mild with few symptoms but in extreme cases, it can cause internal bleeding which can be incredibly dangerous.

SFTS is a disease spread by the bite of an infected tick. The main tick vectors that carry SFTS are the Haemaphysalis longicornis Neumann (bush tick) and the Rhipicephalus microplus Canestrini (southern cattle tick).

Symptoms of SFTS

There can be a string of symptoms from heavy bruising to cuts that bleed heavily, heavy periods, jaundice, blood in urine or stools, fatigue, or an enlarged spleen.

Thrombocytopenia can be caused by several different things and often is a result of some other condition. In the case of this tick-borne disease, the decrease of platelets in the blood is caused by bacteria transferred to humans through tick bites. 

The CDC reports there has been some evidence of humans transferring SFTS  to other humans through blood or mucus, but it is mostly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. There have also been some reports by Japanese health officials of humans being infected after being bitten by sick domestic animals. The disease is not expected to rise into something that travels or transmits rapidly.

Who is Most Affected by SFTS?

Those people most infected are farmers and hunters that spend a lot of time around the animals that carry bush and cattle ticks, such as goats, cattle, sheep, boar, and deer. However, with the change in climate and human activities, there is risk potential, so extended research is necessary. There is no clinical cure for SFTS as of yet, but early recognition and the treatment of symptoms has helped in lowering the number of deaths.

If SFTS is only present in Asia you may wonder why we even take the time to share this information. History tells us that we never know when these types of illnesses can find their way to our own shores and knowledge is a powerful tool. At Mosquito Squad of Franklin & Framingham protection is our major goal and that includes staying ahead of the game.

While this particular disease has not surfaced here yet, Lyme disease is part of our everyday lives n Massachusetts. So while we may not need to fight against SFTS yet, we need to continue our fight against ticks and all the diseases they transmit. Our barrier spray and tick tube system serve the best form of professional tick control treatment and we stand by it with our 100% satisfaction guarantee. Call us today for more information and let’s create the plan that best serves you.