The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed a visitor to Meramec State Park has tested positive for the rare tick-borne Bourbon virus.
Because of strict health privacy laws, no information has been released about the victim other than they contracted the disease after being bitten by a tick at the park.
According to the CDC, some people who have been infected with the Bourbon virus have died.
Last week, experts from the CDC confirmed the presence of Bourbon virus in ticks collected at the park and notified the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) of the confirmed presence of the virus.
This case is only the fifth of its kind nationwide since the virus was first discovered three years ago in Bourbon, Kan.
The Bourbon virus belongs to a group of viruses called Thogotoviruses.
The case did not involve any travel outside of the state, indicating that exposure occurred in Missouri.
Jefferscon City DHSS Public Information Bureau Chief Sara O’Connor said she could not confirm or deny the current health status of the infected person.
“This is an unusual thing that has happened,” O’Connor said. “Because there are so few cases ever reported, it is far too early to say what complications may arise.”
O’Connor added, because of the many rural areas in the state, giving out any identifying information about a victim could inadvertently identify them.
“This is an extremely rare disease,” O’Connor said. “The important thing now is to inform people how to protect themselves.”
She added even the more widely known tick-borne illness Lyme disease is very rare in Missouri.
There has been no explanation as to how the virus ended up in Missouri, or what may be done to eliminate it.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Communications Director Connie Patterson also would not divulge any information about the person infected.
She did say Meramec State Park and all its facilities remained open to visitors over the busy Fourth of July holiday.
Staff of the Franklin County Health Department assisted the CDC in collecting tick samples at the park in Sullivan.
Bourbon virus testing is only available from the CDC in certain circumstances and is still in the beginning stages of development.
This means that testing must be approved by the CDC, and other health conditions must be ruled out first.
Known symptoms of Bourbon virus include fever, headache, body aches, rash and fatigue.
Most people have a full recovery from other tick-borne diseases.
However, DHSS statistics 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.
Avoiding exposure to ticks is critical to the prevention of tick-borne disease.
Beyond staying away from brushy areas and long grass where ticks hunt, the best practice to avoid tick bites is to use a repellent with a minimum of 20 percent DEET.
Keeping lawns cut short and trimming shrubs and trees to increase sunlight can help make these areas less hospitable for ticks.
People with outdoor pets should talk with their veterinarian about using an effective parasite prevention treatment.
In addition to preventing bites, prompt removal of ticks can help prevent disease:
• Using tweezers, grasp tick near its mouth and as close to your skin as possible.
• Pull tick firmly, straight out, away from skin. Do not jerk or twist the tick.
• Do NOT use alcohol, matches, liquid soap, or petroleum jelly to remove a tick.
• Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after the tick is removed.
• Apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
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.