The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported the discovery of a new virus that may have contributed to the death of a resident in eastern Kansas in late spring of 2014. The case is described in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

The male patient (>50 years of age) initially presented with a history of tick bite, fever, and fatigue. He was given doxycycline for a suspected tickborne illness but his condition did not improve. He eventually died from cardiopulmonary arrest 11 days after onset of illness.

A test for antibodies against Heartland virus via plaque reduction neutralization showed the presence of another virus. This virus (named the “Bourbon virus” for the county where the patients was residing) was found to belong to the genus Thogotovirus through real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) and plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT).

RELATED: What is the Bourbon Virus?

The ≥6 viruses in the genus Thogotovirus are mainly associated with either hard or soft ticks with a wide geographic distribution. Currently, two of the viruses (Thogoto and Dhori) are known to cause human infection and disease. Antibodies against Thogoto virus have been identified in humans in Europe, Asia, and Africa; antibodies against Dhori virus have been reported in a similar pattern. This marks the first time a virus in this group has been shown to cause human illness in the United States. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that the Bourbon virus is most closely related to Dhori and Batken viruses.

Scientists report it is unclear what role the virus had in the patient’s death, but the high level of viremia suggests that this might have contributed to the patient’s death. People should be advised to avoid tick bites by using an insect repellent that is effective against ticks, wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding bushy and wooded areas, and performing tick checks after being outdoors. Further study is planned to identify more human infections with this novel virus and to assess its potential geographic distribution.

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