Fatal disease apparently transmitted from cat to human for the first time
In Japan, a woman died from an illness that is usually transmitted by ticks. However, the 50-year-old had not contracted the infection through the small bloodsuckers, but apparently through a cat bite.
Deadly disease transmitted through cat bite
In Germany, ticks can transmit dangerous infectious diseases such as early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) or Lyme disease. In parts of East Asia, the small bloodsuckers can also pass on a pathogen that is life-threatening: the SFTS virus (Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome). A Japanese woman who died from such an infection apparently got infected not by a tick bite but by a cat bite.
Died from infection with the SFTS virus
In Japan, a 50-year-old woman has died from an infection with the SFTS virus after a cat bite, reports the AFP news agency. The health ministry said the incident occurred last year.
SFTS (German: severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome) is common in parts of East Asia. Usually the disease is transmitted by ticks.
According to experts, the illness associated with violent fever, vomiting, diarrhea and multiple organ failure ends in up to 30 percent of cases.
Possibly the first case worldwide
Although transmission of the tick virus from person to person through blood contact has occasionally been reported in the past, it is not yet known that a person died after the bite of another animal infected with the virus.
"We haven't had reports like this," said a spokeswoman for the Japanese Ministry of Health, AFP. "It has not yet been confirmed that the virus is from the cat - but it may be the first case in the world."
The woman reportedly died ten days after taking a stray and sick cat to the vet.
Since the doctors diagnosed her with SFTS, but did not find any tick bites, they suspect that the patient had been infected by the cat's bite.
There is no vaccine against the disease
SFTS has been occurring in Asia for some time, and particularly in China, Japan and South Korea. There is no vaccination or medication for the disease, only its symptoms can be treated.
According to the Ministry of Health, 60 people in Japan become infected with the SFTS virus every year, about 20 percent of them die.
"The first SFTS patient in Japan was identified in autumn 2012," says the journal Uirusu. The virus was endemic in China in 2011.
The Ministry is now warning the population against petting sick stray animals. (ad)