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Tick Bite Terror: Why 18.7% of Cases End in Death—What You Need to Know

Daniel Kim Views  

As the weather warms up and outdoor activities increase, the Seoul Research Institute of Public Health and the Environment (SIHE), in collaboration with the Future Han River Headquarters and Park Leisure Center, will monitor areas in Han River Park and Ecological Park as well as popular walking paths, where ticks are anticipated to inhabit.

Ticks, particularly the arthropod species Haemaphysalis longicornis, are known to transmit Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) to both humans and pets. This disease is characterized by fever, thrombocytopenia (a decrease in platelets), leukopenia (a decrease in white blood cells), vomiting, and diarrhea. With no known vaccine or treatment and a mortality rate of 18.7%, the institute urges caution to avoid tick bites.

However, not all Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks carry the SFTS virus, and so far, no ticks carrying the SFTS virus have been found in Seoul. Nevertheless, the institute warns that there have been cases of people getting infected through ticks attached to them during outdoor activities or to their pets.

These ticks, which can bite humans, are tiny, even at their adult and nymph stages. Therefore, checking your clothing and shoes thoroughly after outdoor activities is crucial, as ticks may latch onto them without noticing. Pet owners are advised to scrutinize their pets after walks, as they often pass through areas where ticks inhabit.

In Korea, the Haemaphysalis longicornis tick is the primary vector species, active mainly from April to October. After feeding on blood, it can grow up to 2 cm (0.8 inches), but before feeding, it’s typically 1-9 mm (0.04-0.35 inches) in size.

The institute recommends that if a tick bites you, do not discard it. Instead, carefully remove it using tweezers and submit it to a public health center (or animal disease control department for pets) for testing to determine the type of tick and whether it carries the SFTS virus.

Park Joo Sung, the director of the SIHE, stated, “The institute plans to alleviate citizens’ concerns through continuous tick investigations and prompt testing. We urge citizens to follow tick disease prevention guidelines such as wearing long clothes during outdoor activities, washing thoroughly afterward, and conducting careful inspections.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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