Deadly New Tick-Borne Illnesses on CDC Radar

As if we needed another reason to keep ourselves…and our pets… tick free, health agencies in the U.S. recently announced that a new deadly virus, believed to be carried by tick bites, has been discovered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) are investigating a virus that killed a Kansas man. Called the Bourbon virus (after the county where the first victim lived), the new species of virus is believed to be tick borne.

KDHE reported that the first symptoms led medical personnel to believe the 50-year-old man had a tick-borne illness, such as ehrlichiosis, but later investigations showed that it was a new, never-before-seen virus.

The patient, who contracted the disease in the summer of 2014, developed nausea, weakness and diarrhea after finding bites and an engorged tick on the shoulder. Later symptoms included fever, anorexia, headache, joint and muscle pain. Despite medical treatment and hospitalization, the man’s condition worsened and he died after 11 days. The KDHE notes that it is not known if the Bourbon virus was the primary cause of death or how much it contributed to the patient’s death.

The CDC said that viruses like the Bourbon virus, which belong to a group called thogotoviruses, are found worldwide and some cause illness in humans. As the Bourbon virus is newly identified, there is no vaccine or drug to prevent or treat the disease.

Still need convincing?

Not only was the Bourbon virus identified recently, but in 2012, another new virus appeared on the CDC radar: Heartland virus. As of March 2014, eight cases had been diagnosed in Missouri and Tennessee. The Heartland virus is also believed to be carried by ticks — most namely Lone Star Ticks.

One patient with Heartland virus died; most patients required hospitalization. Symptoms included fever, exhaustion, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, headaches and muscle aches. Again, there is no vaccine or drug to prevent or treat the disease.

Because of this, prevention of tick bites is crucial.

For humans, steps include:

  • Avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Using insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors
  • Using products that contain permethrin on clothing
  • Wearing clothing with long sleeves and pants
  • Bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off or find any ticks that may be on you

In addition, any gear or pets that have been outdoors should be inspected as ticks will “hitch a ride.” It is not known how Bourbon virus and/or Heartland virus affect pets, but their threat to humans is enough to warrant taking protective action.

To make it even easier, help protect yourself and your pets and apply a topical that kills ticks, like PetArmor Plus. This fast-acting, long-lasting and waterproof topical also kills fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, chewing lice and ticks, including those that may carry Lyme disease.

Battling a tick-borne disease is no “walk in the woods.” Tick-borne diseases have been proven to be costly and, in some cases, deadly. In the case of these illnesses, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.

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