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CDC Investigating Newly Discovered Tick-Borne Virus

‘Bourbon virus’ tied to previously healthy man’s death within 11 days of symptoms

MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — An otherwise healthy man in Kansas became infected with a newly discovered type of virus after he was bitten by ticks, and he died of a related illness 11 days later, health official reported Friday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team noted that the newly identified virus is a novel member of the genus Thogotovirus, which has been linked to transmission by ticks and mosquitoes in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The virus — dubbed “Bourbon virus” after the name of the Kansas county where the man lived — has never been spotted in the United States before, according to the CDC. The agency noted that more cases may have occurred but gone unidentified. The CDC said it’s now collaborating with researchers in Kansas “to identify additional cases of Bourbon virus disease, determine who gets sick and with what symptoms, and how people are getting infected.”

According to a report led by CDC investigator Olga Kosoy and scheduled to be published in the May issue of the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases, the unidentified man was under the age of 50 and previously healthy. He had been working on his property and was bitten by ticks several times. The man also “found an engorged tick on his shoulder several days before he became ill with nausea, weakness, and diarrhea,” the researchers write. He arrived via ambulance at a hospital with fever, elevated blood pressure, and a rash on his torso. Blood tests revealed low counts of various blood cell types, which were later traced acute bone marrow suppression.

Doctors initially prescribed the antibiotic doxycycline, but the man’s condition continued to deteriorate, with fever and loss of appetite setting in. Nine days after admission to the hospital, he had trouble breathing and was put on oxygen support. Organ failure began to occur and the man died 11 days after arriving at the hospital, according to the report. While the researchers could not confirm that Bourbon virus caused the man’s death, the high levels of virus found in his blood samples suggested it played a key role. CDC experts hope the new report will alert doctors to the existence of this virus, and its possible role in future illnesses.

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