A newly discovered virus, believed to be spread by ticks, has reportedly taken the life of a Kansas man.
The previously healthy man, who was in his 50s, was bit by a tick last spring after working on his property. The man came down with symptoms that included nausea, weakness and diarrhea. He soon developed a fever and chills.
The man was treated with antibiotics, a standard therapy for tick bites to stop a bacterial infection. The treatment did not help and the man was eventually transported to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. He was tested for well-known viruses but his disease was not recognized.
A blood sample was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for advanced tests and it was found to be a previously undiscovered virus never known to cause illness in the U.S., reports USA Today.
The man died 11 days after the tick bite occurred.
The CDC has named it the "Bourbon" virus because the man lived in Bourbon County, Kansas.
The Bourbon virus belongs to a family called thogotoviruses. The closest relative of this strain has only previously been found in Europe, Asia and Africa, with only eight cases reported as causing symptoms in humans, according to The Daily Mail.
Thogotoviruses usually give people meningitis or encephalitis, conditions that cause inflammation of the lining of the brain or the brain itself, respectively.
The Kansas man did not have inflammation; he had a decline in his white blood cells and platelets. White blood cells help fight infections and platelets help the blood to cot. Symptoms like these are more in line with ehrlichiosis, a bacterial illness caused by ticks that has been diagnosed in the United States.
J. Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, said the Bourbon virus may have been around for years but went unnoticed because it had not made anyone sick before. It may have infected people mildly in the past and only now an infection that was deadly occurred. The virus may also have recently evolved to become more dangerous and deadly.
"As diagnostic techniques have improved and surveillance of unexplained illnesses have increased, it is not surprising to find novel pathogens," said Amesh Adalja, senior associate at the Center for Health Security of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"It will be important to determine how widespread the Bourbon virus is in both ticks, insects, animals and humans and to grasp the spectrum of illness it is capable of causing," Adalja said. "The fact that a novel virus was discovered underscores the need for perpetual vigilance, in all locales, with respect to emerging infectious diseases. It is only by leaving no stone unturned when investigating unexplained illnesses that humans can best prepare for microbial threats."