Scientists Identify New Tick-borne Disease

Medical researchers in northeastern China have found a new fever-causing virus carried by a specific type of tick. The disease has been named the Alongshan virus, or ALSV. The disease was named for the initial case identified, a 42-year-old female farmer from the town Alongshan in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China. Since then, an additional 86 cases have been found in the same region.

Authors from various universities and laboratories in China published their findings on ALSV in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the article, the disease was identified using genome sequencing, a process for determining the makeup of an organism’s DNA. ALSV has been linked to bites from Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks, commonly known as the longhorned tick.

ALSV causes a hemorrhagic fever accompanied by headaches which appear an average of three to seven days after a tick bite. The patients in the study were treated with the antiviral drug ribavirin, and benzylpenicillin sodium, an antibiotic, for three to five days. All patients had complete recovery of symptoms after six to eight days of treatment. The authors of the report wrote: “Neither permanent clinical complications nor death occurred among patients with confirmed infection.”

There is a long list of diseases people need to worry about when they come into contact with ticks. The arachnids are responsible for infecting humans with 16 different types of diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Bourbon Virus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that Americans reported 59,349 cases of tick-borne disease in 2017.

In the United States, tick season is just beginning. There are several things that you can do to minimize your chances of getting bitten. If you go into tall grasses and forested areas, wear protective clothing and use an insect repellent with DEET. Avoid brushing against plants and leaves by walking in the center of pathways and check your body for ticks after any outdoor adventures.

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