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The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to follow preventive measures to avoid being bitten by ticks during outdoor activities such as farming, as the first death from Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) occurred in Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do this year.

Image/Robert Herriman

The patient, an 88-year-old woman from Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do, did agricultural work in the field in front of her house before the onset of symptoms. On March 27, she visited a medical institution with fever symptoms and was hospitalized and discharged. She subsequently tested positive for SFTS on April 5 during her rehospitalization as her condition worsened, and died on April 6.

A total of 1,697 patients with SFTS occurred from 2013 when the first patient was reported in Korea until 2022, and 317 of them died, showing a fatality rate of 18.7%.

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SFTS is an infectious disease that begins to occur in the spring when opportunities for tick exposure increase due to increased outdoor activities such as agricultural work, forest product collection, and mountain climbing, and has a high fatality rate and there is no preventive vaccine or treatment .

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is a newly emerging infectious disease. Symptoms and laboratory abnormalities are fever, thrombocytopenia, leukocytopenia, and elevated serum enzyme levels. Multiorgan failure occurs in severe cases, and 6%–30% of case-patients die. The syndrome is caused by the SFTS virus (SFTSV) (genus Phlebovirus, family Bunyaviridae).

Ixodid tick species are implicated as vectors of SFTSV.