A Bourbon virus carried by ticks is responsible for the death of a man from Kansas, according to health officials investigating the case.
Bourbon virus, named after the county in which it was first identified, had never before been seen by health care workers. The lone victim presented symptoms similar to those seen in other tick-borne illnesses, including muscle fatigue and fever. Doctors who first examined the man believed he may have been suffering from Heartland virus disease or ehrlichiosis. Tests for these illnesses, however, proved negative, and further research revealed the illness was caused by a previously-unidentified virus.
Although ticks have not been proven to be the carrier of the disease, similarities to other tick-borne illnesses suggest the parasitic insects were responsible. Investigators are also studying the case, in order to determine if the newly-identified virus is wholly or partly responsible for the death.
"Bourbon virus has likely been around for some time, but only recently did we have the diagnostic techniques to isolate and identify such viruses," Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Kansas Hospital, said.
Residents who live near the deceased man who have experienced similar symptoms are also being tested, to determine if they also became infected with Bourbon virus. Ticks in the region are also being studied to determine how widespread the virus is among carriers. Researchers from the CDC have developed a new blood test, able to detect the presence of infection in humans.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) officials, in conjunction with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are investigating the death, in an effort to learn more about the newly-identified virus.
The lone identified victim of Bourbon virus contracted the disease in the summer of 2014. He visited a physician, and was treated for other tick-borne illness. After those treatments failed to have an effect, the victim died of multiple organ failure.
Other tick-borne illnesses in the United States include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q fever, babesiosis, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis. The most commonly-known of tick-borne illnesses is Lyme disease, which infects between 22,500 and 30,000 Americans every year, according to the CDC.
The KDHE and CDC are recommending people "Wear clothing with long sleeves and pants; Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you; [and] Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors," KDHE officials report on their Web site.