AS the pandemic rages around the world, the country where coronavirus first emerged has reported cases of a new deadly disease.

What’s happening?

China has reported new cases of an infection known as Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS), which is a tick-borne virus.

Is it serious?

So far, seven people are known to have died and at least 60 infected, sparking concern amongst health officials in the country.

Chinese media has reported that most cases were concentrated in the Jiangsu and Anhui provinces of Eastern China.

When was this?

More than 37 people were confirmed to have SFTS in Jiangsu in the early months of 2020, while 23 were later found to be infected in Anhui.

What do we know about the virus?

Thought to have originated up to 150 years ago, a collaborative research paper from bodies including the Department of Zoology at Oxford University and Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology in 2013 noted that "current understanding of the evolution and molecular epidemiology" of the virus is “limited". 


It it known to be transmitted to humans through tick bites - it is believed an Asian tick called Haemaphysalis longicornis is the primary carrier - and the major clinical symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and multiple organ failure.


While China has been accused of failing to admit early on in the coronavirus battle that it was transferred from human-to-human, Chinese virologists have warned that human-to-human transmission of the SFTS virus cannot be ruled out. 

There have been breakouts before?

SFTS is regarded as an emerging infectious disease, whose incidence has increased in recent times and could continue to do so, but it was first reported in this form in 2009 in rural areas of China, with most cases occurring from April to July. In 2013, cases were reported in Japan and South Korea and in 2017, a woman in Japan died after a cat infected with the virus bit her. The cat also died.

Fatality rate?

According to the China Information System for Disease Control and Prevention, the current case fatality is between 16 and 30%.

Early warning signs?

Sheng Jifang, an infectious disease expert with the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, told the state-backed Global Times newspaper that the early symptoms include "fatigue and fever; sometimes there will be a rash”.

Who is at most risk?

Those who come in contact frequently with animals that could carry the tick, so farmers, hunters and pet owners are on the list.

Speaking to the Global Times, Leng Peien, from Shanghai's Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said most of the recent cases in China resulted from direct transmission via tick bites. Sheng said people should avoid areas where ticks could be present to limit spread of the disease, adding: "Fortunately, ticks can't fly. It should be safe just to avoid their territory”.

What now?

The WHO said three years ago in its annual review of diseases prioritised under the "Research and Development Blueprint" that SFTP was among the diseases posing "major public health risks", adding that "further research and development is needed”.