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Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome in South Korea

10 Apr 2023

According to media, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported this year’s first death from severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS)

The case was an elderly woman who became unwell after working in the fields near her house in Haenam-gun, Jeollanam-do in the south of the country. She was admitted to hospital on 27 March 2023 and was later discharged. However, her condition worsened and on 5 April 2023 she was readmitted to hospital where she died the following day.

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.