The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a Payne County patient is the second person ever to be diagnosed with Bourbon Virus, a tick-borne illness that killed a Kansas man last year.
The Kansas patient, described as a “previously healthy 50-year-old man, died as a result of multiple organ failure 11 days after seeking treatment, said Dr. Kristy Bradley, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Health Department..
Although very little is known about Bourbon Virus or how to treat it, the Payne County patient made a full recovery after seeking medical care, she said.
There is no treatment for Bourbon Virus so doctors can only treat the symptoms by hospitalizing patients and giving supportive treatments like intravenous fluids.
Bourbon Virus is a previously undetected or novel virus that CDC scientists studying Heartland Virus, another rare tick-borne illness, isolated.
The virus is named after Bourbon County, Kansas, where the first patient was located.
The Bourbon Virus belongs to the Thogotovirus family, previously found in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Bourbon Virus is the first of that family be found in the western hemisphere.
Oklahoma State Health Department spokeswoman Jamie Dukes said the Payne County patient fell ill with what was assumed to be a tick-borne illness in May 2014.
The case was referred to the CDC’s Heartland Virus study when the patient didn’t respond to the antibiotic treatments used with more common bacterial tick diseases like Erlichiosis, Turloremia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The Payne County patient’s illness was only recently diagnosed when scientists tested blood samples from unsolved cases after Bourbon Virus was identified as a new illness in the Kansas patient’s samples, Dukes said.
Because little is known about the disease, Bradley is advising people to be vigilant about taking standard tick precautions:
• Avoid brushy and wooded areas
• Use insect repellents
• Wear long sleeves and pants
• Perform a thorough tick check soon after spending time outdoors
It can take 8-12 hours for a tick to transmit some diseases while others can be transmitted in an hour or two, making timely tick checks doubly important, Bradley said.
“Oklahoma is in the hot zone for tick-borne illnesses,” she said. “People should take ticks seriously.”
Bradley said this should be a bad year because cool, moist conditions like Oklahoma is experiencing are ideal for ticks.
Anyone who has symptoms like fever, chills, body aches or a rash and has been bitten by a tick or in an area where ticks are found within the past 30 days should seek medical attention quickly.
If the patient doesn’t respond to antibiotics, their medical provider should contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health for a referral to the CDC.
Patients should not contact the health department directly.