Researchers in Japan have discovered yet another tick-borne virus, called the Yezo virus, which can make people sick, according to WebMD.
The virus has been found to be transmitted by tick bites, causing fever and a reduction in white blood cells and platelets.
Keita Matsuno, a Japanese virologist, said, “At least seven people have been infected with this new virus in Japan since 2014, but, so far, no deaths have been confirmed.”
“It’s very likely that the disease is found beyond Hokkaido, so we need to urgently investigate its spread,” added Matsuno, who is affiliated with Hokkaido University International Institute for Zoonosis Control.
In 2019, a 41-year-old man was admitted to a hospital with fever and leg pain after he was possibly bitten by a tick while walking in a local Hokkaido forest. He was discharged after two weeks of treatment. However, his tests showed that he was not infected with any known viruses carried by ticks in the region.
In 2020, another patient was treated for similar symptoms after a tick bite.
Both patients’ blood samples were collected for genetic analyses of viruses and were found positive for the Yezo virus.
Yezo comes from a historical Japanese name for Hokkaido, which is a large island in the north of Japan.
The researchers then conducted a study to find the source of the Yezo virus and its antibodies in Hokkaido sika deer and raccoons. They found Yezo RNA in three major tick species in Hokkaido. The study was published online recently in the journal Nature Communications.
Matsuno said, “The Yezo virus seems to have established its distribution in Hokkaido, and it is highly likely that the virus causes the illness when it is transmitted to humans from animals via ticks.”
The researchers said people who come with symptoms similar to the Yezo infection should be tested for the virus.
Tick-borne diseases are a big public health threat. In the United States, tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever have become more common.