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Man suffers infectious disease through contact with pet dog bitten by tick

A man in his 40s was infected with severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) this summer through contact with his pet dog, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare revealed on Oct. 10.

The health ministry believes the man became infected with the disease after stroking and massaging his dog, which had previously been bitten by an ixodid tick -- an arachnid that spreads SFTS. Currently, the man and the dog from Tokushima Prefecture are in recovery.

In July, there was a similar case of a person dying after being bitten by a stray cat, but this is the first case of someone becoming infected through contact with a pet. As a result, the health ministry is warning people not to engage in excessive contact with pets that are unwell.

According to the ministry, the dog -- a large 4-year-old female crossbreed -- became unwell in early June, with symptoms such as fever, and was taken to a veterinary hospital. About one to two weeks later, the man also became ill, with symptoms including fever and severe diarrhea.

Tests confirmed that the dog was infected with SFTS, and an additional test on a sample from the man by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases revealed that the dog had passed SFTS onto the owner.

SFTS is a disease with a high fatality rate. Since the first human case in Japan was detected in 2013, 303 people have been confirmed as having the infection, with 59 people dying as a result.

Cases have been most frequent in western Japan, and all the people who have died from the disease have been at least 50 years old. About six days to two weeks after becoming infected, symptoms such as fever, vomiting and melena tend to emerge.

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