A St. Louis County resident has tested positive for a possible case of the Bourbon virus and it’s now an emerging illness in different locations in Missouri.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Director Dr. Randall Williams, confirmed to The Missourian the most recent case was reported in May in an adult resident and the individual has recovered.
Due to patient privacy laws, Williams could not release the specific location of the potential infection, the person’s age, gender or if anyone they may have been in contact with has been tested.
While initial testing was negative for Heartland and Bourbon virus, due to clinical symptoms and in an abundance of caution, additional different testing was conducted and indicated it may have been Bourbon virus.
Confirmation of the possible positive test results, which require blood samples collected over time, will not be available for two to three weeks.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta is the only entity that conducts Heartland and Bourbon virus testing.
The patient with possible Bourbon virus reports being bitten by a tick after spending time outdoors in the southwest St. Louis area. The patient did not report spending time in specific locations associated with prior positive Bourbon virus test results in people or ticks.
Williams stresses if patients are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms in these summer months they should contact a physician.
Likewise, health care providers should not rule out and should focus exams on potential tick-borne illnesses.
“About half of the people infected by tick-borne illnesses have no recollection of being bitten,” Williams said. “If you think you have the flu in May, June or July, you should check with your doctor.”
Bourbon virus was initially identified in an individual in Bourbon County, Kan. It also has been reported in Oklahoma and detected in ticks in Northwest Missouri, in a resident of Southwest Missouri, a resident of East Central Missouri, and now possibly a second resident of East Central Missouri.
Williams said ticks have no borders and residents living in St. Louis, Jefferson and Franklin counties should be hyper vigilant in checking themselves and loved ones for ticks and use products to prevent from being bitten.
“Although there is a low risk, it doesn’t mean there is no risk,” Williams said. “It is vital for people to know wherever they are in the state, check for ticks. With reports of Bourbon virus in several parts of the state, no location is safe.”
Last summer, Meramec State Park assistant superintendent Tamela Wilson died from complications related to Bourbon virus.
She was bitten by a seed tick while at her home in the park outside Sullivan last Memorial Day weekend and at the time was only the fifth known case of the virus in North America.
Despite having its annual operating budget cut drastically, Williams and the DHSS will not release any additional testing that may or may not have been done on Meramec State Park employees, or those results.
Former State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, and State Rep. Nate Tate, R-St. Clair, led the fight for information over concerns the disease would become a public health threat, which Williams has now confirmed.
“My job is to follow both federal and state law,” said Williams. “I have great respect for the General Assembly, but we have some differing opinions.”
Williams, an Eric Greitens appointee, confirmed he was contacted by new Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and has been asked to remain in his current post as head of DHSS.