A newly discovered tick-borne disease in China is caused by a never-before identified virus. The new virus, SFTSV, stands for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome bunyavirus and can cause those infected to experience fever and multiple organ failure. According to PhysOrg.com severe symptoms include thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count), gastrointestinal issues, and leukocytopenia (low blood white count, which creates an increased risk in infection). With the original cases coming in, scientists observed a high fatality rate of 30 percent.
Scientists analyzed the new SFTSV and determined it was related to five Bunyaviridae viruses: orthobunyavirus, hantavirus, nairovirus, phlebovirus, and tospovirus. The report in the New England Journal of Medicine cited that they believe it belongs to the Phlebovirus genus as well as being related to the other four. The majority of the patients with the virus were older than 50, with over half of them being women. Almost all of those who acquired the virus were farmers who lived in rural wooded areas and spent their time in agricultural fields and wooded areas.
The virus was isolated in 171 patients throughout six different rural provinces in China and it had led to 36 deaths by September of 2010, creating a total fatality rate of 12 percent. Currently the virus has only been located in China.To date, there has been no epidemiological evidence that the SFTSV virus can be transmitted through human-to-human contact so the risk of a global outbreak is remote.
Details on the morphology of the new virus is in the March 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and can be read online.