By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
More questions than answers still surround the death of Meramec State Park Assistant Superintendent Tamela Wilson due to complications from the Bourbon virus.
Once again this week, staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were in Franklin County investigating the source of the virus.
According to a press release, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the 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 done at Meramec State Park was part of a follow-up investigation into a recent case of Bourbon virus associated with exposure to ticks in Missouri.
The CDC’s Arboviral Disease Branch will test each blood sample for the presence of Bourbon virus antibodies, which may indicate a previous exposure to the virus.
Sara O’Connor, chief of public information for the DHSS, said no other employees have shown virus symptoms and would not release the number of employees tested, or any information on Wilson’s family members.
“Testing was not done to diagnose illness in individuals,” O’Connor said.” Rather, it was done for surveillance purposes to determine whether persons have previously been exposed to the virus.”
Currently DHSS has not identified any hot zones and no quarantines are in place, or recommended.
“There is no public health-related need to close the park,” she said. “Anyone who may come into contact with ticks should take precautions to prevent tick bites.”
The DHSS and CDC had between four and seven personnel at the park each day and they were also assisted by the Crawford County Health Department.
Franklin County Health Department Director Angie Hittson said her staff had planned to be involved but due to staffing issues, could not send anyone.
“We did send a few privacy screens and a cot, but that’s it,” Hittson said. “I have not heard how it went or what the turnout was. Hopefully it all went well.”
Testing of ticks collected earlier this summer at Meramec State Park is ongoing at the CDC lab in Atlanta and results should be available next month.
Wilson died from complication of the rare tick borne virus in June. She is only the fifth known case associated with the Bourbon virus.
News of her death, first reported by The Missourian, quickly spread, generating news stories nationally and internationally and thrusting her family into the spotlight.
Since the media crush in July, her daughter, Amie Wilson May, says she has not been contacted by any state or federal agencies about results of, or any further testing.