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Lyme Disease Is Not The Only Tick-Borne Show In Town

We all grew up fearing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, if you’re a Gen-Xer or younger, Lyme disease. But those are only 2 of the 16 known tick-borne diseases that you’re at risk for this year. And some of the infections may well be ones you’ve never even heard of before.

In Arkansas, health officials have announced that they have confirmed a case of Heartland virus–the first ever in the state. This virus was only discovered in 2009 but experts now know that it is spread by the lone star tick, or Amblyomma americanum.

Lone star ticks are widespread, with a range that covers the entire southeastern part of the US:

Map shwing the range of te lone star tick, which can carry the Heartland virus.
Map of Lone Star Tick Range Courtesy CDC.

There was no information given about the victim, other than the fact that he or she has since recovered, but symptoms of Heartland virus can include fever, muscle weakness, fatigue and diarrhea. Since the discovery of Heartland virus, more than 20 cases have been identified with 1 death.

And health officials in Missouri earlier this month announced that a recently deceased resident of that state had tested positive for Bourbon virus. Discovered only in 2014, Bourbon virus is still a bit of a mystery to experts. In fact, in the Missouri case doctors will say only that there is “a possibility” that ticks transmitted the infection. A tick collecting effort is currently underway in several states.

Arkansas and Missouri are only 2 of the states that have publicly urged residents to take flea, tick and mosquito prevention seriously. South Carolina, for example, says that it saw more than 800 cases of tick-borne diseases last year–and those are only the cases that were reported.

In fact, most cases of tick-borne infection will never be reported. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that they require no treatment and sometimes the fever, chills, diarrhea and other symptoms get dismissed as flu or mild food poisoning. In 2015, CDC researchers writing in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases estimated that the true number of Lyme disease sufferers could be 10 times the official count.

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