July 25, 2017  BBC News

A Japanese woman died last year of a tick-borne disease after being bitten by a stray cat, Japan’s health ministry says, in what could be the first such mammal-to-human transmission.

The unnamed woman in her 50s had been helping the apparently sick cat.

Ten days later she died of Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), which is carried by ticks.

With no tick bite detected, doctors assume the illness could have been contracted via the cat.

“No reports on animal-to-human transmission cases have been made so far,” a Japanese health ministry official told the AFP news agency.

“It’s still not confirmed the virus came from the cat, but it’s possible that it is the first case,” the official added.

SFTS is a relatively new infectious disease emerging in China, Korea and Japan.

The virus is said to have fatality rates of up to 30% and is especially severe in people over 50.

According to Japanese media, SFTS first occurred in the country in 2013.

Japan’s health ministry said last year’s death was still a rare case but warned people to be careful when in contact with animals in poor physical condition.

Globally, tick bites are widely associated with transmitting Lyme disease which can lead to severe illness and death if left untreated.


**For more on Thrombocytopenia Syndrome**

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is a newly emerging infectious disease. Symptoms and laboratory abnormalities are fever, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), leukocytopenia (low white blood cell count), and elevated liver serum enzyme levels. Multiorgan failure occurs in severe cases, and 6%–30% of case-patients die. The syndrome is caused by the SFTS virus (SFTSV) (genus Phlebovirus, family Bunyaviridae). SFTS case-patients were first reported in China (1) and more recently were reported in Japan (2) and South Korea (3). Two case-patients with symptoms consistent with a similar virus, Heartland virus, were reported in the United States (4).

Ixodid tick species are implicated as vectors of SFTSV (1,5,6). One study described a SFTSV prevalence in Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks, a major vector of SFTSV, of 0.46% minimum infection rate in South Korea (7); in another study, SFTSV was detected in ticks that had bitten humans (6). From these studies, we realized that SFTSV was common throughout the country. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence of SFTS in South Korea and isolate the SFTSV to analyze its phylogenetic properties.  

The major signs and symptoms of the 35 case-patients, including fever (100%), gastrointestinal symptoms (74%), fatigue (74%), thrombocytopenia (100%), and leukocytopenia (100%), were similar to those of case-patients in China and Japan (9).

For more on Bunyaviridae viruses:

*The enveloped RNA viruses are found in hematophagous arthropods (blood sucking) and include mosquitos, ticks, midges, flies, or sandflies as well as rodents except for Hantaviruses which are transmitted through contact with deer mice feces – even in the air.  In the advanced stage, of Hantaviruses, there is shortness of breath due to the lungs willing with fluid.

*Examples of Bunyaviridae viruses:  Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, Hanta Virus or Hantavirus Hemorrhagic Fever, California encephalitis virus, Rift Valley fever, Bwamba Fever, Cache Valley Virus, and La Crosse Virus (Wisconsin).  According to the CDC, between 2004 and 2013 there were 787 total cases of La Crosse encephalitis and 11 deaths in the U.S.[7]  Looking at the distribution of cases across the United States by state, between 2004 and 2013 the most cases of La Crosse encephalitis was in North Carolina. North Carolina had 184 total cases, followed by Ohio with 178 total cases.[8]

*There was a Hantavirus outbreak at Yosemite in 2012 and put a 22 year old in intensive care for 10 days.  The CDC states it has a mortality rate of 38% and that cotton and rice rats, and white-footed and deer mice carry it.  Arboviruses:  Types, symptoms, and transmission  By Jenna Fletcher

*There are over 130 different arboviruses that affect humans.

*The three main genera are:  flavivirus (yellow fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis), togavirus (Ross River virus, Eastern equine virus, Western equine virus), and bunyavirus (California encephalitis, La Crosse Virus, Jamestown Canyon virus).

*The viruses can be transmitted through insect bites, blood transfusion, organ transplant, sexual contact, congenitally.


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