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Bourbon Virus: Information, Treatment and Prevention

  • Published: 2014-12-28 (Revised/Updated 2018-05-02) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: New virus linked to death of Kansas resident during the summer of 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) are working closely together to investigate a new virus that has been linked to the death of a resident of Kansas during the summer of 2014. While the host of the new virus which is called, 'Bourbon virus,' remains unknown at this point, it is believed to be transmitted through the bites of ticks or other insects. Symptoms in the Kansas resident resembled other tick-borne diseases, to include fatigue and fever.

The person from the state of Kansas is the first person known to have the disease, which was named after Bourbon County where the person lived. Due to the person's symptoms and changes in blood counts, it was believed the person had a tick-borne illness such as ehrlichiosis, or Heartland virus disease. Specimens taken from the person; however, tested negative for known tick-borne diseases and after additional investigation it was determined to be a new and never before seen virus. What is not known is if Bourbon virus was the cause of the person's death, or much it contributed to the person's death.

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

Treatment and Prevention of Bourbon Virus

At this time, there is no known specific vaccine, treatment, or medication for Bourbon virus disease. Since Bourbon virus disease is believed to be transmitted through tick or insect bites, the risk to people during winter months is at a minimum. In order to reduce the potential risk of tick or insect-borne illnesses, the CDC and KDHE recommend that people:

According to the CDC, the United States of America is home to a number of tick-borne illnesses. These illnesses include the following:

The most common tick-borne illness in America is Lyme disease. More than 22,500 confirmed and 7,500 probable Lyme disease cases were reported to the CDC in the year 2010 alone.

Experts state that Bourbon virus is comparable to another tick-borne illness known as Heartland virus. Heartland virus was first discovered in the year 2012 and as of March of 2014, eight cases have been identified among people living in Missouri and Tennessee. While most people who were hospitalized as a result of their condition eventually do recover, one of them died. Similar to Bourbon virus, doctors say the only way to contract Heartland virus is through a bite from a tick, sandfly, or mosquito.

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