TAIPEI (CNA) — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that an elderly patient in northern Taiwan has been infected with severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), a tick-borne viral disease, the first case of its kind ever reported in Taiwan.
CDC publicized the case at a press briefing Tuesday in which CDC quarantine doctor Chen Meng-yu (陳孟妤) elaborated that the patient in his 70s who had not traveled abroad recently but frequently goes hiking in the mountains, developed a fever and severe vomiting between Oct. 24 and Nov. 2.
After several visits to a local clinic without being cured, the man was admitted to hospital Nov. 3, where he was suspected of having been infected with dengue fever but later tested negative for the mosquito-borne disease.
Chen said that advanced tests with blood samples from the patient found Nov. 13 that they were positive for the virus that causes SFTS, while experts confirmed that the virus is similar to a strain that is circulating in Japan and South Korea.
The finding led the experts to speculate that the Taiwan case resulted from cross-border transmission, Chen said.
CDC Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said SFTS is mainly caused by longhorned tick bites and was first discovered in China in 2009.
In recent years, several SFTS cases have been confirmed in China, Japan and South Korea, affecting over 10,000 people in total, Lo said, noting that the resultant viral hemorrhagic fever has a fatality rate of between 5 percent and 15 percent, with outbreaks concentrated in the May-October period.
The carrier ticks, however, have not been found in Taiwan, said Wang Hsi-chieh (王錫杰), an associate professor at the College of Public Health under National Taiwan University, at the press event.
Nevertheless, the Asian blue tick exists in Taiwan, which could possibly transmit SFTS, he said, warning that people undertaking outdoor activities, such as hikers and farmers, are at high risk of being infected with SFTS because the ticks live in the wild rather than on domestic pets.
The CDC has launched an investigation to locate the source of the SFTS case, while the patient is being treated in an intensive care ward with blood transfusions and antibiotics.
So far, none of the 68 people who have had contact with the patient have shown any signs of illness, the CDC said, adding that it will continue to monitor their health until Nov. 27.