New Virus Discovered in Kansas After Mysterious Death

Ticks are believed to be the primary vectors for the Bourbon virus. By sruilk/Shutterstock

While many Americans fret about the spread of Ebola, a never-seen-before virus may be emerging right here at home. The so-called "Bourbon virus" (named after the Kansas county where it was discovered), was isolated by investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the first time after a 50-year-old man's death in spring 2014, reports CNN.

The man was hospitalized after falling ill roughly two days after he suffered multiple tick bites while working on his property. The illness began with a barrage of flu-like symptoms: fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea and vomiting. Researchers also reported that the man had low blood counts for cells that fight infection and help prevent bleeding. After 11 days of being sick, the man succumbed to a heart attack.

During the man's hospitalization, all test results for infectious diseases came back negative, so doctors sent blood samples to the CDC. Sure enough, a virus new to science was discovered. It was identified as a type of thogotovirus, which is a group of viruses known to be spread through tick and other insect bites. Given that the man had suffered multiple tick bites prior to falling ill, it is believed that ticks were also the vector for this disease.

Though several thogotoviruses are known from different parts of the world, this one was previously unidentified. It is also the first thogotovirus ever found in the Western Hemisphere.

The Kansas man is the only known individual to contract the Bourbon virus, though it is possible there have been other cases that have remained unidentified. As of yet, there are no laboratory tests to determine if a patient is infected with the virus, but researchers are working to develop one now that the virus has been isolated.

If you're near the region where the Bourbon virus was discovered (Bourbon County, Kansas) and are concerned about contracting the virus, it's recommended that you do what you can to prevent tick and insect bites: use insect repellents, wear long sleeves and pants, and avoid bushy or wooded areas where ticks thrive.