Scientists are beginning to believe that a healthy Kansas man who fell seriously ill after being bitten by ticks last year and died 11 days later could have been infected by a new virus that has never been seen before anywhere. It is being called the ‘Bourbon virus’ for now, after the name of the Kansas county in which the first victim had lived.
The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is worried that more cases may have occurred but gone unidentified.
As per a CDC report by investigator Olga Kosoy, the unidentified man who had previously been healthy was less than 50 years of age. He was working on his property in late spring 2014 when he was bitten by ticks.
He had also “found an engorged tick on his shoulder several days before he became ill with nausea, weakness and diarrhea,” the researchers wrote.
He arrived via ambulance at a hospital with fever, elevated blood pressure and a rash on his torso. Blood tests revealed low counts of various blood cell types, which was later traced to unhealthy “bone marrow suppression.”
His condition continued to deteriorate even after the doctors attending on him put him on doxycycline. He began to complain of trouble in breathing nine days after being brought to the hospital and was put on oxygen support. Organ failure began to set in occur and the man died 11 days after arriving at the hospital, the report said.
Though the researchers looking up his case have not named Bourbon virus as the culprit, the high levels of it found in his blood samples go on to suggest that it played a key role.
The CDC team noted that the newly found virus is one from a family of germs called Thogotoviruses, “which have been linked to [transmission by] ticks and mosquitoes in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa.”
The agency said its experts will now work under laboratory conditions to know the virus better and find out how it makes the people sick and whether animals play a role in spreading the infection caused by it.