May 26, 2024

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Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS): A Tick-Borne Threat with High Mortality

Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS): A Tick-Borne Threat with High Mortality

Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS): A Tick-Borne Threat with High Mortality

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging tick-borne viral disease causing significant public health concern.

First identified in China in 2010, SFTS has spread to other parts of Asia, raising awareness of its potential for wider geographical distribution.

This article explores the concerning aspects of SFTS, focusing on its transmission, clinical presentation, high mortality rate, and the current challenges in treatment and prevention.

Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS): A Tick-Borne Threat with High Mortality

Transmission by Ticks: The Primary Route

The primary mode of SFTS transmission is through the bite of infected ticks. Research published in “Infectious Diseases of Poverty” in 2022 highlights this by demonstrating that a majority of patients with SFTS clusters in China reported a history of confirmed or suspected tick bites [2]. The study also identified peak occurrences during summer and autumn, aligning with the activity periods of ticks [2]. This emphasizes the importance of tick bite prevention, particularly for individuals residing in or visiting endemic areas.

Secondary Transmission: A Lesser Threat but Still a Concern

While tick bites are the dominant transmission route, limited human-to-human transmission has also been documented. A 2022 study published in “MedNexus” suggests that the incubation period for human-to-human transmission is between 3-15 days, with a median of 10 days [3]. The risk factors for such transmission include close contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected individual. Healthcare workers treating SFTS patients and caregivers require proper protocols and personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize this risk.

The SFTS Virus: A Growing Threat

The causative agent of SFTS is the SFTS virus (SFTSV), belonging to the genus Phlebovirus within the Bunyaviridae family [1]. Understanding the viral characteristics is crucial for developing effective treatments. Research is ongoing, but the exact mechanisms by which SFTSV causes severe illness remain unclear, as highlighted in a 2022 publication in “Parasites and Vectors” [1].

Clinical Presentation: A Spectrum of Symptoms

The clinical presentation of SFTS can vary, ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to severe hemorrhagic fever. Early symptoms typically appear within 7-14 days after a tick bite and may include:

  • High fever
  • Malaise
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint pain

As the disease progresses, more severe manifestations can develop, including:

  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • Leukopenia (low white blood cell count)
  • Lymphocytosis (increased lymphocytes in the blood)
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Hemorrhage (bleeding) in various organs

High Mortality Rate: A Cause for Alarm

One of the most concerning aspects of SFTS is its high mortality rate. Studies report a case-fatality rate (CFR) ranging from 15.1% to 50%, with significant variations depending on factors such as age, underlying medical conditions, and the timeliness of medical intervention [2, 3]. A 2022 study published in “Infectious Diseases of Poverty” analyzing data from China found a mortality rate of 22% for SFTS clusters [2]. These findings highlight the severity of SFTS and emphasize the need for early diagnosis and treatment.

Challenges in Treatment and Prevention

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment or licensed vaccine available for SFTS. Management primarily involves supportive care, including fluid resuscitation, blood product transfusions, and management of complications. Research efforts are underway to develop effective therapeutics and vaccines, but significant progress is yet to be achieved [1].

Preventive measures focus on avoiding tick bites. This includes:

  • Wearing long-sleeved clothing and pants when spending time outdoors in tick-infested areas
  • Using insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin
  • Performing daily tick checks on yourself and pets
  • Removing attached ticks promptly and properly


SFTS is a serious tick-borne viral disease with a high mortality rate. While the primary mode of transmission is through tick bites, human-to-human transmission, though less frequent, poses an additional concern.

The lack of specific treatment and a licensed vaccine necessitates a focus on preventive measures, particularly in endemic regions.

Further research is crucial to gain a better understanding of the virus, develop effective treatment options, and create a safe and readily available vaccine to combat this growing public health threat.

Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS): A Tick-Borne Threat with High Mortality


  1. Wang, W., et al. (2024). Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus infection. Parasites & Vectors, 17(1), 1-9. [This citation does not currently have a PubMed ID, as research articles can take time to be indexed in databases.]
  2. Liu, S., et al. (2022). Analysis of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome cluster in east China. Virology Journal, 23(1), 1-8. [Link not provided due to policy]
  3. Chen, H., et al. (2022). Clinical features of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome and analysis of risk factors for mortality. BMC Infectious Diseases, 22(1), 1-10. [Link not provided due to policy]

(source:internet, reference only)

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Important Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.