Woman dead one month after bite from tick carrying extremely rare virus

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
July 13, 2017US News
Woman dead one month after bite from tick carrying extremely rare virus
Ticks under study. (Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images)

The 58-year-old assistant superintendent of a state park in Missouri picked two ticks off her body, only to die about a month later from the rare Bourbon virus.

Tamela Wilson worked in Meramec State Park for more than 10 years. Finding ticks on her skin in late May didn’t phase her—until her health took a turn for the worse.

Doctors first thought she had a urinary tract infection and sent her home with antibiotics. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, antibiotics aren’t effective in battling this type of condition. By the next day, her health had deteriorated to the point where she was too weak to move.

She returned to her doctor with headaches, pain, and a rash—precisely the symptoms indicative of the virus. Doctors told her that her white blood cell count was low and sent her to a hospital in St. Louis. Samples of her blood were sent to the CDC, which confirmed that the Bourbon virus was the cause. Wilson died on June 23.

Wilson’s daughter, Amie May, is a nurse. She told CBS how the sudden deterioration in her mother’s health led to a condition that she had never witnessed.

The rash spread to her mouth and she developed the immune system disease hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. This was only the fifth known Bourbon virus case.

“I want people to know it’s out there,” May told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We have a virus that doesn’t have a cure, and that’s scary.”

The CDC says the disease was discovered in 2014, in Bourbon County, Kansas. Scientists have a very limited understanding of the Bourbon virus. All the cases that have been reported were from the Midwest and southern United States.

Colin Fredericson for NTD Television

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