CDC discovers new virus in Kansas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday the discovery of a new virus that may be spread through tick or insect bites. The virus may have contributed to the 2014 death of a Kansas man who was otherwise healthy.

Working with experts from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and University of Kansas Medical Center (UKMC), researchers found that the virus is part of a group of viruses called thogotoviruses. The virus was named Bourbon virus for the county in which the patient lived. The case is the first time a thogotovirus has been shown to cause human illness in the U.S. and the eighth known case of it causing symptoms in people.

According to the report, the patient, who was over 50 years old, was working outside on his property in late spring 2014 when he received several tick bites and
found an engorged tick on his shoulder. Several days later, he fell ill with nausea, weakness and diarrhea. The next day, he developed a fever, anorexia, chills, headache, myalgia, and arthralgia. The patient visited his primary care physician on the third day, at which point he was prescribed an antibiotic for a presumed tickborne illness.  The next morning, his wife found him experiencing reduced consciousness and we was taken to the local hospital.

Test results for many infectious diseases came back negative and a sample of the patient’s blood was sent to the CDC, which found evidence of an unidentified virus. Researchers used Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) and determined it was a new virus.

According to the news release, the CDC is working with KDHE and UKMC to identify additional cases of Bourbon virus disease, determine who gets sick and with what symptoms, and how people are getting infected. CDC experts are also working to better understand the virus itself to potentially prevent and control Bourbon virus.

CDC researchers believe other undiscovered viruses are likely causing illness, with this finding and recent discoveries of Heartland virus in Missouri and severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome viruses in China.