It’s called the Hearthland Virus. It’s named after a hospital near St. Joseph, Missouri. The illness first appeared in that part of the state. Eight people have come down with it, most of them are from Missouri. One person has died the rest have recovered.
Dr. Ericka Hayes is an expert in infectious diseases at Washington University Medical School. Dr. Hayes said, “It’s worrisome when we know there’s a new germ out there that can make people sick.”
Experts and the C.D.C. have been investigating the illness. There is no medicine no cure right now. Doctors can only treat the symptoms. Dr. Hayes said, “Fever, feeling very tired and really no specific symptoms like headaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sounds not unlike having the flu.”
It’s believed the Lone Star Tick carries the new virus. People who like to hike in the woods are a little uneasy when they hear about a new disease carried by ticks.
Doctors recommend that to keep ticks away tuck your pant legs under your socks, use bug repellant that has a high percentage of DEET and stay out of wooded and grassy areas. If you do go hiking, do a thorough check afterwards. Dr. Hayes said, “A tick has to be attached to you several hours, if not days, before it can make you sick. So if you have been outside and you come in and you check yourself promptly for ticks and remove them you can prevent yourself from getting sick.”
Seven cases of the illness have been reported in Missouri and one in Tennessee. Patients who’ve been exposed all had low numbers of cells that fight infection and that help blood clot. Most of them required hospitalization. The person who died from the heartland virus had already been battling some medical problems.
The lone star tick has a broad distribution in the U.S., occupying much of the Southeast. The tick's range has even been expanding over the past few decades, and it now thrives as far north as Maine.
It’s not clear if animals can be infected.