The family of Bourbon virus victim Tamela Wilson would like to see the testing process for the tick-borne virus go much quicker.
According to a spokesperson for the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), it may be quite a while before it is known if ticks collected at Meramec State Park carry the Bourbon virus.
Katie Fowlie, a press officer from the NCEZID, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, has confirmed thousands of ticks were shipped to CDC for identification and analysis.
“Tick collection was completed at the end of June and the CDC has been providing technical assistance to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) with the Bourbon virus investigation,” Fowlie said. “It will take several months for the processing and testing of the ticks to be complete.”
The collection of ticks at the park came a week after the death of former assistant park superintendent Tamela Wilson, who tested positive for the virus on June 11.
Wilson died 12 days later from complications her daughter Amie May feels resulted from the virus and the subsequent treatment of the underlying effects it had on her mother’s pre-existing conditions.
“My mom had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that she was diagnosed with in 2012, I believe,” May said. “Her death, however, was not related to the lymphoma. Although it could be related to her not being able to fight it off as well.”
Statistics from the DHSS indicate that people over age 50 and those with chronic health problems are more likely to develop a serious illness that can lead to complications.
May, who is a nurse, said her mother’s official cause of death was respiratory failure, but hadn’t suffered from respiratory issues before she entered the hospital on May 31.
Although she doesn’t feel earlier detection would have made a difference in her mother’s case, May said earlier identification could save someone else.
“The requirements for testing the Bourbon virus through the CDC are too strict and it takes too long for the results to come back,” May said. “A lot can happen in the seven days awaiting confirmation. I can imagine people have had it and it was missed because they didn’t meet the CDC requirements for testing.”
The CDC, with help from Missouri, Kansas and other states, is looking for additional patients who may be infected with the Bourbon virus.
The investigation also involves laboratory scientists who are working to develop a test for the virus that can be used by doctors and laboratories.
Known symptoms of Bourbon virus include fever, headache, body aches, rash and fatigue. Most people have a full recovery from the tick-borne disease.
Tamela Wilson was a longtime state employee and had lived and worked in Meramec State Park for 10 years.
May said since her mother’s death, the family has not been contacted by any state agencies to follow up on the Bourbon virus diagnosis or offer condolences on the death of a state employee.
Connie Patterson, the director of communications for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, told The Missourian Meramec State Park is an area of interest in the Bourbon virus investigation. Health officials have advised that at this time there is no information to suggest the potential exposure risk at the park is any greater than anywhere else in Missouri.
Accordingly, the park and all its facilities remain open to the public as the tick collection process continues.
Missouri State Parks will continue to provide information to visitors about how to protect themselves from tick bites, how to properly remove ticks and what to watch for if they do have a tick bite. These efforts include interpretive programs, information posted on bulletin boards and given to visitors, Patterson said.
Requests from The Missourian to Gov. Eric Greitens office, and DHSS for information on the ongoing investigation at the park have gone unanswered.