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Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome in Japan

20 Feb 2023

Public health authorities in Japan have reported via media a rise in cases of a severe viral illness in 2021 and 2022. This illness has been named as 'severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome' (STFS) and includes symptoms of fever and internal/external bleeding.

From January 2021 to the end of July 2022, there were 187 cases of SFTS in Japan, including at least 17 deaths. Affected regions include Aichi, Fukuoka, Shizuoka and Yamaguchi Prefectures. 

SFTS is a potentially fatal tick-borne viral haemorrhagic fever found in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Case numbers usually rise in spring months as ticks become more active.

Advice for Travellers

SFTS is spread by ticks infected from animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. Close contact with animals is associated with infection. SFTS can also be transmitted by having contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. 

STFS is rare in travellers. Your risk may increase if you are visiting an affected area and:

  • plan to undertake activities such as hiking, camping in rural areas or visiting farms which will increase your likelihood of tick bites 
  • are travelling for medical or veterinary work reasons

If you are travelling to an affected region, you should be aware of the disease and know how to reduce risk of transmission by:

  • practicing tick bite avoidance measures, particularly if particiating in outdoor activities
  • follow appropriate infection control procedures if you are working in a health care setting or working with animals 
  • avoid close contact with animals, including pets

There is no vaccine available for use in the UK.

For further information see the Viral Haemorrhagic Fever page.