Federal health officials have revealed on Friday that a newly discovered virus likely spread by ticks appeared to be responsible for the death of a previously healthy man from Kansas.
In a report published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the man sought medical help last spring after he was bitten by ticks and suffered from fever and fatigue. He died 11 days after he was admitted to the hospital.
The patient's blood was sent to the CDC for analysis and genetic tests revealed that he was infected with a previously undiscovered virus. The virus called the "Bourbon virus", after the Kansas county where the patient lived, has not been known to cause illness in the U.S.
CDC said that there may be more associated cases that have only gone unidentified. The agency said that it is currently working with researchers in Kansas to identify more cases of the disease, find out who gets ill, how people get infected and the symptoms of infection.
Although researchers could not confirm whether the newly discovered virus is indeed responsible for the man's death, the high levels of Bourbon virus that was found in the patient's blood samples suggest that it had an important role.
"Although it is unclear what role the virus played in the death of the patient, the high level of viremia, as shown by multiple isolations from the blood of the patient 2 days before his death, suggests that this might have contributed to the death of the patient," the researchers wrote.
The virus belong to the family of germs known as Thogotoviruses, which are known to be transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes in parts of Africa, Europe and Asia.
The 50-year old patient, who was bitten several times by ticks in late spring last year, reportedly found an engorged tick on his shoulder prior to him becoming ill with nausea and diarrhea, and exhibiting weakness.
He was suffering from fever, high blood pressure and a rash when he was rushed to the hospital. Doctors prescribed him with the antibiotic doxycycline but his condition continued to deteriorate. He eventually had trouble breathing and suffered from organ failure before dying 11 days after.
The CDC researchers hope that with their report, doctors are alerted of the existence of the virus and its potential role in future illnesses.