Bourbon Virus : Health professionals study new virus in Kansas

Updated: December 24, 2014
Bourbon Virus : Health professionals study new virus in Kansas

Bourbon Virus Found in Southeast Kansas, News that federal and state health officials are studying a new virus linked to the death of a Bourbon County, Kan., resident caused little stir in the county Tuesday. But that could change once ticks return to the county’s woods and prairies.

It’s estimated 300,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year. It’s an illness spread by ticks.

This summer a patient came into the University of Kansas hospital with symptoms similar to most tick-borne illnesses, but after testing the man, doctors were stumped.

“It was very frustrating. That’s one of the biggest problems with my job, which I love, when we can’t answer those questions, when we can’t help the patients or their families,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an Infectious Disease Physician at the hospital said,

People with diseases spread by ticks see symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, muscle aches, and nausea.

Dr. Hawkinson explained the Kansas man didn’t respond to typical treatments. He eventually experienced multi-organ failure.

Now, six months after his death, the CDC determined the man had “Bourbon Virus.”

It’s named after Bourbon County, Kan., where the man lived.

“We continued to push and have concerns as to why this happened. The CDC was on board with us and was able to help us with that and we were now able to identify this new virus,” Dr. Hawkinson said.

It’s not clear how long this virus has been around or if others have contracted the disease. However, doctors hope with this discovery they’ll be able to help other patients and families.

“This may be a cause of other people’s illness as well and those will be steps we’re going to be looking at with the CDC too,” Dr. Hawkinson said.

There’s no vaccine for the Bourbon Virus. The CDC says the best way to prevent the disease is to just avoid being bitten by a tick.