Tick-bite virus death total reaches 8

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Tick-bite virus death total reaches 8

The national disease regulator yesterday confirmed three more cases of death by a lethal tick-borne virus, pushing the number of deaths to eight.

Among the latest casualties is a 62-year-old man on Jeju Island who contracted the disease through a tick bite in June and died yesterday at the Jeju National University Hospital.

He reportedly was hospitalized with fever, fatigue and a low blood-cell count, symptoms suggesting he was infected with SFTS, or severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome.

A 79-year-old woman on Jeju Island, who died on July 3, was also found to have developed the potentially lethal infection, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed. The disease center also said yesterday that a 69-year-old woman living in South Gyeongsang died of the virus on June 30.

The announcement of three human cases came two months after the first death in May. The number of people diagnosed with the infection stands at 13 across the nation.

The first casualty was a 73-year-old man, again a Jeju resident. Four out of the eight deaths were on the scenic island, prompting the government officials there to carry out research to see how many ticks are in the region, especially on the Olle Trail, a tourist attraction bustling with locals and foreign tourists alike.

They said earlier this year that some parts of the trail have a higher concentration of ticks. So, the officials provided 1000 cans of tick repellent to the residents of the region and public health centers with safety statements.

The Seoul city government also warned kindergartens and schools not to have outdoor classes to curb the potential risk.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that the virus has a fatality rate of 6 percent based on the data provided by the Chinese government on the number of virus-infected patients and those who have died from it.

The disease prevention center has so far been reported 191 cases but only 7 percent of them tested positive for the tick-borne disease.

The ministry also stressed that, although no vaccination treatments have been developed to counter the virus, executing timely treatment such as regular blood tests or dialysis could reduce the risk.

The so-called “deadly tick” virus was first detected in China in 2009 and it sprung up in Japan in January of this year. Japanese media outlets have reported seven people in Japan have died from the virus.

Korea has not confirmed if the fatal virus came from Japan, China or was developed domestically.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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