Deadly Pathogen- new virus linked to death from tick bite

Kansas- A new disease dubbed the “Bourbon Virus” has been discovered after a Kansas man died from a tick bite, according to the CDC Journal of Emerging Diseases published on Friday.

The infection was first discovered in a man from Bourbon County, Kansas in the late spring of 2014 after he had been working outside and was bitten by a tick.

tick bite

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When the man, who was over 50, went to the doctor after finding the “engorged” tick. The  doctor gave him a normal medication  for tick bites. But instead of getting better, the man grew worse.

From the CDC Journal….”the patient had several tick bites and found an engorged tick on his shoulder several days before he became ill with nausea, weakness, and diarrhea. The following day, a fever, anorexia, chills, headache, myalgia, and arthralgia developed. On the third day of illness, the patient went to his primary care physician, who empirically prescribed doxycycline for a presumed tickborne illness because of his history of tick bites, symptoms, and no reported travel outside the immediate area. The following morning, the patient’s wife found him obtunded (experiencing reduced consciousness) but arousable. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.”

His organs began to fail, and 11 days after the bite, he was dead. His symptoms resembled those of other tick bite diseases, such as fatigue and fever. Prior to the incident, he was healthy.

CDC researchers discovered the virus by checking for genetic markers in the man’s blood. According to the Kansas Department of Health, the virus belongs to a group called thogotoviruses – and up until this discovery, they were not believed to cause death in humans. It is only the 8th time that type of virus it was shown to cause any symptoms at all.

Kansas is home to several tick-borne illnesses, among them one called “Heartland Virus.” None of the previous viruses were found  to be present in the victim’s blood. Ticks are known to carry numerous diseases, such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others.

Having known a young woman who died in 2014 of massive internal bleeding after a tick bite in Kansas City, this new virus is troubling. It is unknown which tick-borne pathogen killed her, as the hospital was unaware of what was going on until it was too late to save her.

Let’s hope that knowing what the virus is will help prevent the next person from dying.


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