At least Seven People Infected with Novel Tick-borne Yezo Virus in Japan

Japanese scientists have discovered the Yezo virus, a new tick-borne zoonotic virus in Hokkaido.

“At least seven people have been infected with this new virus in Japan since 2014,” said Dr. Keita Matsuno, a virologist in the International Institute for Zoonosis Control at Hokkaido University.

The novel Yezo virus causes symptoms including a fever and a reduction in blood platelets and leucocytes.

Yezo virus was first discovered on a 41-year-old man who was admitted to the hospital in 2019 with fever and leg pain, but did not test positive for known tick-borne viruses. 

Researchers at Hokkaido University then analyzed the patient’s blood along with another patient who also showed similar symptoms. 

Sequencing from the blood samples revealed that it was a new type of orthonairovirus, a class of nairovirus similar to the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and named it Yezo, after Hokkaido’s old name. 

“All of the cases of Yezo virus infection we know of so far did not turn into fatalities, but it’s very likely that the disease is found beyond Hokkaido, so we need to urgently investigate its spread,” added Matsuno.

The researchers said they are planning on gathering more data on the Yezo virus outside Hokkaido. 

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