A novel bunyavirus associated with fever, thrombocytopenia and leukopenia syndrome (FTLS) was discovered in Henan Province, China. Here, we report the development of an assay for this novel bunyavirus based on real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR). The assay exhibited high sensitivity and specificity without cross-reactivity towards 13 other viruses that cause similar symptoms. To evaluate the performance of this assay in detecting clinical samples, we analysed 261 serum samples from patients in Henan Province between 2007 and 2010. Of these samples, 91.95 % were bunyavirus positive. Compared with serological assays, the real-time PCR assay was much more sensitive in identifying infected patients 1 to 7 days after the onset of symptoms.