Bourbon virus is new to the United States and has already killed one man in Kansas. According to medical reports, the man had been healthy before becoming ill after a tick bite 11 days ago. The Bourbon virus reportedly caused his organs to fail and ultimately resulted in his death.
The CDC has named the new and deadly virus Bourbon after the county which the Kansas man lived. The virus belongs to the thogotovirus group. The virus group has reportedly only caused human illness eight times before in the countries of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The Bourbon virus Kansas death is the first time the CDC has witnessed a strain of the thogotovirus impact human blood cells. The man was reportedly in his 50s. He was treated with strong antibiotics, but his body could not recover, leaving him unable to breathe on his own.
CDC researchers investigated the blood of the Kansas Bourbon virus victim and found the infection by the previously unnamed and unidentified virus from the thogotovirus group. During initial tests, the Kansas man’s symptoms were reportedly similar to the symptoms of a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks. The patient’s platelets and white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infection and to help blood clot, declined rapidly. The thogotoviruses are reportedly known to cause meningitis. Thogotoviruses typically make individuals ill by causing meningitis — an inflammation of the lining of the brain — or a brain inflammation called encephalitis. The virus group is not reportedly known for causing blood cell problems.
The unnamed Kansas Bourbon virus victim became ill last spring, but the CDC only recently released results of in-depth and “sophisticated” genetic testing on his blood. The man was reportedly bitten by ticks while working on his property.
CDC epidemiologist J. Erin Staples stated that while the Bourbon virus may have been around for years, it could have gone unnoticed because symptoms presented in a mild form in other individuals. Staples did concede that the virus could also have evolved recently and become more deadly.
“It is only by leaving no stone unturned when investigating unexplained illnesses that humans can best prepare for microbial threats,” Center for Health Security of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center senior associate Amesh Adalja said. “Health officials must now determine just how widespread the Bourbon virus is in ticks, animals and humans so that they can ‘grasp the spectrum of illness it is capable of causing.”
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