September 20, 2017

Public health response to Bourbon virus

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with local public health agencies this week to test for evidence of Bourbon virus in the blood of some Missouri state park workers. The testing was done as part of a follow-up investigation into a recent case of Bourbon virus associated with exposure to ticks in Missouri.

CDC's Arboviral Disease Branch will test each blood sample for the presence of Bourbon virus antibodies; these antibodies may indicate a previous exposure to the virus.

This follow-up investigation will help determine who might be at risk for Bourbon virus. It is believed to be spread by ticks, but this has not been confirmed. Bourbon virus was first discovered to cause human illness in a Bourbon County, KS, man in 2014. The virus belongs to the Thogotovirus group, and Bourbon virus is the only known member of this group to cause disease in the United States.

Patients diagnosed with Bourbon virus have shown signs similar to Heartland virus and ehrlichiosis (two other tick-borne illnesses found in Missouri), including fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, anorexia, diarrhea and rash. Like Heartland virus and ehrlichiosis, Bourbon virus can affect blood cells that help the body fight infection and prevent bleeding. There is no vaccine for Bourbon virus.

The best way to prevent tick-borne disease infection is to avoid being bitten by a tick. Information on ways to prevent exposure can be found on the DHSS website:

If a person begins developing a fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, anorexia, diarrhea or a rash after exposure to a tick bite or tick habitat, they should seek treatment from a medical professional and inform them of recent tick exposure.

For more information on ticks and the ongoing Bourbon virus investigation, please contact the Department of Health and Senior Services, Office of Veterinary Public Health at 573-751-6062 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.