Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS)

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Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS) is a viral disease that has been identified in several countries, including China, Japan, and South Korea. It is caused by the SFTS virus (SFTSV), which is transmitted to humans through tick bites or contact with infected animals, such as goats and cattle. The disease is characterized by a range of symptoms, including fever, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, lymphadenopathy, neurological symptoms, and hemorrhage. Understanding the symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for managing this potentially life-threatening disease.

Fever: The Initial Sign

Fever is often the first symptom of SFTS. Patients may experience a sudden onset of high fever, typically above 38.5°C (101.3°F). The fever may persist for several days and can be accompanied by chills and sweating. It is important to monitor body temperature regularly and seek medical attention if the fever persists or worsens.

Fatigue: Overwhelming Exhaustion

Fatigue is a common symptom of SFTS and can be debilitating. Patients may experience extreme tiredness and a lack of energy, making it difficult to perform daily activities. Rest and adequate sleep are essential for managing fatigue. It is important to avoid overexertion and prioritize self-care during the recovery period.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Digestive Distress

SFTS can cause various gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. It is important to stay hydrated and consume easily digestible foods to alleviate gastrointestinal distress. If symptoms persist or worsen, medical attention should be sought.

Thrombocytopenia: Low Platelet Count

Thrombocytopenia, or a low platelet count, is a characteristic feature of SFTS. Platelets play a crucial role in blood clotting, and a decrease in their count can lead to excessive bleeding and bruising. It is important to monitor platelet levels regularly and follow medical advice regarding any necessary interventions, such as platelet transfusions.

Leukopenia: Decreased White Blood Cell Count

SFTS can also cause leukopenia, which is a decrease in the number of white blood cells. White blood cells are essential for fighting off infections, and a low count can weaken the immune system. It is important to take precautions to avoid infections, such as practicing good hygiene and avoiding close contact with sick individuals.

Lymphadenopathy: Swollen Lymph Nodes

Lymphadenopathy, or swollen lymph nodes, is a common symptom of SFTS. The lymph nodes may become enlarged and tender to the touch. It is important to avoid unnecessary pressure or manipulation of the affected lymph nodes to prevent further discomfort or complications.

Neurological Symptoms: Altered Mental State

SFTS can affect the central nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms. Patients may experience confusion, disorientation, seizures, or even coma. Prompt medical attention is crucial for managing these symptoms and preventing further complications.

Hemorrhage: Excessive Bleeding

Hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding, can occur in severe cases of SFTS. This can manifest as bleeding from the nose, gums, or gastrointestinal tract. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if any signs of hemorrhage are observed.

Treatment and Prevention

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for SFTS. Supportive care is the mainstay of treatment, focusing on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Hospitalization may be necessary for close monitoring and intervention, especially in severe cases.

Prevention plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of SFTS. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid areas with high tick populations, such as grassy or wooded areas.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks when spending time outdoors.
  • Use insect repellents that are effective against ticks.
  • Inspect your body and clothing for ticks after outdoor activities.
  • Remove ticks promptly and properly using tweezers or tick removal tools.
  • Avoid contact with animals, especially those showing signs of illness.
  • Practice good hygiene, including regular handwashing.

While there is currently no cure for SFTS, early detection and supportive care can significantly improve outcomes. It is important to stay informed about the disease and take necessary precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Seeking medical attention promptly and following healthcare provider’s advice is crucial for managing SFTS effectively.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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