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KCDC issues warning over tick virus

June 29,2017
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) issued a warning on Wednesday against a tick-borne virus, as eight people died from the Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) this year.

The KCDC said 32 were diagnosed with SFTS this year, a 50 percent increase in the number of infected patients from January to June last year. The eight fatalities this year was a 160 percent increase in the number of deaths from the virus from January to June last year.

Last year, 165 people were infected, of whom 19 died. From 2013 to as of Tuesday, 367 people were infected of whom 81 died.

The KCDC warned people employed in farming and aged higher than 50 to wear proper working outfits, gloves and boots when working in the fields, as they tend to be more exposed to tick bites than others. It also advised hikers to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to avoid the bites, especially from April to November, when Ixodid tick species, the known carriers of the virus, are most active. Tick repellents can also come in handy.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, muscle spasms, headaches, low levels of blood platelets, a decrease in the number of white blood cells and higher levels of serum enzymes. Severe cases can lead to multiple organ failure. The incubation period is six to 14 days.

A vaccine for SFTS has not yet been developed.

“If anyone experiences high fever of 38 to 40 degrees Celsius [100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit], within two weeks of an outdoor activity, or a digestion problem including nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, he or she must immediately visit a hospital,” the KCDC said in its statement Wednesday.

“As most ticks tend to feed on animal blood for days or even weeks, if you find one on your skin, do not remove it by hand but use a pair of tweezers, apply disinfectant to the bite area and visit a hospital if needed.”

The SFTS virus may be transmitted among humans through exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids, but human-to-human transmission has been rare in Korea, the KCDC said.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]