There's a Scary New Illness to Look Out For If You're Traveling to Asia Soon

Scientists have discovered a new tickborne illness in China, a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine says.

The virus is called Alongshan virus (ALSV) and was discovered after officials surveilling for tickborne diseases in China came across the case of a woman who went to a hospital in Inner Mongolia, whose illness “had an unknown cause.” Alongshan is the name of the town where the patient lived.

The illness seemed similar to an infection from the tickborne encephalitis virus (TBEV), but after ruling out a TBEV infection, doctors “initiated a heightened surveillance program in the same hospital to screen for other patients who presented with fever, headache, and a history of tick bites.”

They eventually concluded came to the conclusion that the patient’s virus had been previously unknown. The initial patient studied was a 42-year-old farmer. Additionally, they confirmed that ALSV had infected 85 other patients, all from Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang. The patients presented with fever and a headache, and they’d all been bitten by ticks.

The patients were treated with a combination of benzylpenicillin sodium and ribavirin for 3 to 5 days, the new report says. The ribavirin was administered through an IV, and the benzylpenicillin sodium was given intramuscularly, which means it was injected into the muscle. Additional medicines were given to patients with severe headaches. The patients had to be hospitalized for about 10 to 14 days,but all made a complete clinical recovery. The virus caused neither permanent complications nor death.

The authors of the new report say they suspect that the virus is caused by the tick I. persulcatus. “Common hosts of I. persulcatus include most mammals (e.g., sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, rabbits, humans) and occasionally some birds. I. persulcatus is widely distributed in Asia and eastern Europe, including China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and Russia,” the report says.

It’s worth noting that the authors say mosquitos can’t be eliminated as the hosts that transmit ASLV. They’re calling for more research to be done to figure out where else people can pick up the virus.­­­

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