Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kansas DOH Statement On New, Possibly Tickborne Virus


Credit CDC


# 9497


The Kansas Department of Environment & Health, along with the CDC, are investigating a newly identified (likely tickborne) virus, which appears to have contributed to the death of a Kansas resident over the summer.


After testing for, and eliminating, the  `usual suspects’ the CDC has now developed a test for this novel virus, and will be testing others in the region to try to get a handle on how widespread it might be.

First the press release, after which I’ll be back with a bit more.

KDHE and CDC Investigate New Virus

Bourbon virus is thought to be transmitted through mosquito or tick bites

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate a new virus which has been linked to the death of a Kansas resident during the summer of 2014. Although the host of this new virus, called Bourbon virus, is unknown at this time, it is thought to be transmitted through the bites of ticks or other insects. Symptoms in the Kansas resident resembled other tick-borne diseases, including fever and fatigue.

This is the first known case of Bourbon virus, which has been named after Bourbon County, where the patient had lived. Because of the patient's symptoms and changes in blood counts, it was believed that the resident had a tick-borne illness, such as ehrlichiosis or Heartland virus disease. However, specimens taken from the resident tested negative for known tick-borne diseases and after further investigation it was determined to be a new, never before seen, virus. It is not known if Bourbon virus was the cause of death or how much it contributed to the resident’s death.

CDC, KDHE, and the clinical team are working to learn more about this new virus. The patient's case history has been reviewed and there are plans to test other residents, with similar symptoms, who have tested negative for Heartland virus in the last year for this novel virus. CDC has developed blood tests that can be used to identify and confirm recent Bourbon virus infections. Finally, investigations are ongoing to explore how people are getting infected with the virus, including plans to collect and test ticks and other insects for the new virus.

There is no known specific treatment, vaccine, or drug for Bourbon virus disease. Since Bourbon virus disease is thought to be transmitted through tick or insect bites, risk to the public during the winter months is minimal. To reduce the potential risk of tick- or insect-borne illnesses, KDHE and CDC recommend that people:

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter;
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors;
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing;
  • 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;
  • Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors; and
  • Examine gear and pets, as ticks can “ride” into the home and attach to a person later.

I would imagine we’ll hear from the CDC on this at some point, and probably see a dispatch in an upcoming MMWR


A little over two years ago (see New Phlebovirus Discovered In Missouri) we learned about the new `Heartland Virus’ which made headlines when it was detected in two Missouri farmers with no epidemiological links and living 60 miles apart. Since then the number of cases – while small – has continued to grow (see MMWR: Heartland Virus Disease — United States, 2012–2013)


SFTS or Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome - which was first discovered in China in 2009, but has also been found in Japan and Korea - is genetically similar to the recently discovered Heartland Virus (see EID Journal: Two Dispatches On SFTS).


The CDC lists a growing number of diseases carried by ticks in the United States, including: Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis , Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness), Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF), Tularemia, and 364D Rickettsiosis.


Last year, the CDC revised their Estimate Of Yearly Lyme Disease Diagnoses In The United States, indicating that the number of Lyme Disease diagnoses in the country is probably closer to 300,000 than the 30,000 that are officially reported each year to the CDC.


Whether a new and emerging threat, or simply the result of our ability to finally recognize a long-time nemesis, we are becoming more cognizant of the dangers posed by ticks. With no vaccines to protect us, it makes sense to take precautions against ticks and other vector-borne diseases. The following CDC website offers advice on:


Preventing Tick Bites


And for some more Tick-borne disease related blogs, you may wish to revisit:


PHAC: Lyme Disease Risk Increasing In Canada

EID Journal: Novel Bunyavirus In Livestock – Minnesota

Korean CDC On SFTS Cases

Referral: Maryn McKenna On Babesia And The Blood Supply

NEJM: Emergence Of A New Bacterial Cause Of Ehrlichiosis

tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .


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