Information is beginning to spread online in Japan that a “killer tick” which carries a virus that causes severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS virus) has already infected 53 people and has left 21 people dead.
This is not the first time the virus has caused deaths in Japan, but Japan’s Ministry of Health are now urging people not to expose their skin when walking and doing activities in areas where there is a lot of shrubbery and vegetation.
As Japan moves through the spring season, the ministry is now actively cautioning people to be aware that the virus spreads through ticks. The SFTS virus is carried by the insects and is transferred via its bite. In Western Japan, 53 people have already been infected with the STFS virus, with most of the patients complaining of fever and hemorrhaging. Unfortunately, already 21 people have died. “When in places where there is a lot of vegetation, people should try not to expose their skin where possible,” Tamura Norihasa, Japan’s Minister for Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura Norihisa, said in an official statement.
The majority of SFTS cases so far have been in China, which is also where scientists first isolated the virus in 2009. While all of the confirmed SFTS cases seem to be in western Japan, the Infectious Disease Surveillance Center warns that the type of tick that is the carrier of the virus can be found in 23 prefectures, ranging from Hokkaido in the north to the island of Kyushu in the south. There is no effective vaccine for this virus (or for any known virus for that matter), and as Japan enters the spring season, people are advised to be more careful.