Tick-borne virus may have caused Jeju death
Jeju Special Self-Governing Province reported yesterday that the farmer, identified as Kang, died at 6:40 a.m. yesterday after showing symptoms similar to those of SFTS, or severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. SFTS-infected ticks have been referred to as “killer ticks” for harboring the deadly virus with a fatality rate reaching as high as 30 percent.
Kang, who ran a livestock farm on the southern island, checked into a hospital on May 6 when his body temperature soared to 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 Fahrenheit). Kang was suspected of being bitten by the SFTS-infected tick after a bite wound in his right armpit was discovered.
The victim was transferred to the Jeju National University Hospital’s intensive care unit two days later, as his fever and vomiting grew worse.
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had yet to confirm the cause of Kang’s death as of yesterday and that it sent a blood sample to the National Institute of Health for an epidemiological investigation.
“It is yet to be confirmed that the patient died from an infection with the SFTS virus,” said a disease control center official. “The verification result will come out sometime next week.”
If the deceased patient is indeed confirmed to have died from the deadly SFTS virus transmitted through a tick bite, it will be the first such case reported in the country. No vaccination or effective treatments have been developed to counter the deadly virus as of yet. Only symptoms can be treated. The virus has an incubation period of six to 14 days until showing infection symptoms including high fever, vomiting, multiple organ failure and diarrhea. The virus is also known to cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells and blood platelets.
Ticks are widespread across Asia. Usually measuring only a few millimeters in size, an adult tick swells to resemble a blueberry nearly 1 centimeter (0.39 inch) wide after feeding.
The state-run disease control center reported earlier this month SFTS virus was found in one domestic tick species: haemaphysalis longicornis.
Japan reported its first case of SFTS virus infection January and has reported eight bite-transmittable virus cases so far. Of the eight victims, five have died.
By Kang Jin-kyu, Choi Kyung-ho [email@example.com]