Lawmakers from Missouri are threatening budget cuts for the administrative staff of the Department of Health and Senior Services for refusing to release relevant information about a virus that killed a state park employee last year. What is Bourbon virus?
Budget Cut Threats Over Information
In June of 2017, Meramec State Park employee Tamila Wilson died from serious complications of Bourbon virus after she was bitten by a tick. After her death, the state's health department announced that it will be testing Wilson's blood. In the same month, the department released a memo on Bourbon virus and other tick-borne diseases as a result of a resident's positive test for the infection.
Because of the incident and concerned over the virus's potential implications on public health, lawmakers wanted to learn more about the disease and if other people have also been infected by it. However, the state's health department has declined to provide more information, stating that doing so would be a violation of patient privacy laws.
Because of the department's refusal, Rep. Justin Alferman proposed a 10 percent reduction in the department's budget for administrative staff while Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick threatened more cuts if they continue to refuse.
"Just from the department not releasing any information makes me suspicious. Let's not negate the fact we had a state employee pass away from this disease," said Rep. Alferman, further stating that their statements are not threats, but promises.
Bourbon Virus Infection
Not a lit is known about Bourbon virus infection as it is quite rare. In fact, experts still aren't sure how people can become infected with the virus. It is believed, however, that its transmission is similar to other tick-borne diseases.
In 2017, several cases of the Bourbon virus infection were recorded in the Midwest and the southern United States, wherein some of the infected individuals eventually died. At the time, it was still unknown whether Bourbon virus is present in other parts of the country.
Because of the rarity of the infection, experts are still trying to learn about the virus and its symptoms, So far, though, some of the symptoms associated with the virus are fever, nausea, tiredness, body aches, vomiting, rash, headache, and low blood count for infection-fighting cells. Further, it is believed that the infection likely comes after being bitten by an infected tick or other insects.
There is still no vaccine or drug to prevent the contraction of Bourbon virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest taking measures to prevent being bitten by ticks or other insects. The CDC suggests using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves to prevent insect bites when going outdoors, avoiding bushy areas, and checking for ticks when coming from outdoors.