It now appears as though a 50-year-old Kansas man who died last year succumbed to a new type of virus. The man became infected after being bitten by a tick.
Reports indicate the man was relatively healthy before being infected. He had been working on the property of his home before discovering a few tick bites on his body. One bite on his shoulder was particularly alarming, as the tick remained under the skin.
Within 48 hours the man had become seriously ill, experiencing nausea, weakness and diarrhea. When these symptoms expanded to include muscle aches and fever, he consulted a doctor. The physician prescribed the drug doxycycline, which is typically used in tick bite cases. However, the symptoms did not alleviate and by day four the man was struggling to remain conscious.
Most experts involved in the case expected the cause to have been Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or ehrlichiosis, all of which can be transmitted by ticks. But now the tests are in and it appears the man died of a completely new virus belonging to the Thogotovirus family.
“It took months to find out this is a novel virus that belonged to a genus of viruses called Thogotovirus,” says Erin Staples, a microbiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Thogotoviruses have been described throughout the world.”
The new virus, which is being called “Bourbon”, is one more reason for people to avoid becoming exposed to ticks. Wearing long sleeves and using insect repellant are important steps in preventing this kind of infection.