Since it was discovered in Kansas in 2014, the tick-borne 'Bourbon virus' has made its way across the Midwest, spreading to Oklahoma and now Missouri, where it's claimed the life of the first person to test positive for the disease in the state.
Tamela Wilson, 58, who worked at Meramec State Park in Missouri, died June 23 after contracting the rare illness, according to Wave 3 News. At first, her doctors didn't know what exactly was causing her pain and symptoms when she first visited the hospital in late May, despite the fact that she had pulled two ticks off her body in May, according to USA Today. In fact, they initially diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection. But they now know Tamela is only the fifth confirmed case of Bourbon virus in the world.
"The doctors were beside themselves," her father, Geoff Potter, told Wave 3 News. "They said it was a medical mystery." While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn't know much about the illness, researchers do know that people can become infected with it after being bit by a tick. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, rash, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. Doctors can treat the symptoms, but there is no treatment to cure the disease.
Now Tamela's family wants everyone to be aware of the virus and its symptoms. "It's not something that any doctor would look for," Tamela's stepmother, Kathy Potter, said. "You have to present it to them, and by the time you find out, it might be too late." Tamela's family donated her body to science so doctors can learn more about the illness and help others.
The best way to prevent Bourbon virus is to prevent tick bites, according to the CDC. You can do this by using insect repellants, wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding bushy or wooded areas, and checking for ticks after spending time outdoors.
(h/t Wave 3 News)