New virus found in Missouri; ticks suspected
August 30th, 2012
10:55 AM ET

New virus found in Missouri; ticks suspected

It started with fever, fatigue,  diarrhea and loss of appetite.

But for two farmers in northwestern Missouri, the severe illness that followed a tick bite led epidemiologists on a journey to a new viral discovery.

"It's brand new to the world," said William Nicholson with the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's unique in that it's never been found elsewhere and it is the first phlebovirus found to cause illness in humans in the Western Hemisphere. At this point we don't know how widespread it may be, or whether it's found in other states. We don't know how many people in Missouri may have had this virus, as the finding of a completely new virus was a surprise to us."

Nicholson, one of the authors of the report detailing the two cases published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, suspects the new virus is a member of the tick-borne phlebovirus and is a distant cousin to Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus (SFTSV), a virus found in central and northeastern China and known to cause death in 13 to 30% of patients.

There are more than 70 distinct viruses in the phlebovirus family, and they're grouped according to whether they are carried and transmitted by sandflies, mosquitoes or ticks.

"We're not saying at this point that it is tick-borne," Nicholson said. "We suspect ticks. It might be a lone star tick or another tick, but we have not ruled out sandflies or mosquitoes."

According to Nicholson, this new virus "clusters genetically" - or is very similar, yet distinct - to other tick-transmitted phleboviruses and more distantly with the sandfly and mosquitoes. Researchers identified it by genetically sequencing the entire genome of the virus and comparing it to existing viral genomes.

"We're casting a wide net so we can really figure out where this virus is located and how it's being transmitted," he said. "We are also going to be doing laboratory studies to learn more about the biology of the virus and how it might be transmitted."

One farmer was a healthy 57 year-old man; the other, a 67-year-old man with type II  diabetes. Recovery for both farmers was slow. Both were hospitalized for about two weeks in 2009, and took about a month and a half to recovery fully.

It's unknown whether this new virus can be transmitted from person to person, but no family members or caregivers reported symptoms similar to either patient.

At the moment, Nicholson said, there is no cause for concern. "I don't think anyone should be worried. We are not worried ... we are curious of what role the virus plays in human disease."

To that end, an epidemiological study is underway in western Missouri, where researchers hope to identify new patients with similar symptoms. For now, researchers will turn their attention to the large number of vertebrae hosts maintaining the virus in nature - mammals both wild and and domestic, as well as birds. In the fall, they will check out the deer and wild turkey population.

Tick-borne diseases are on the rise in the United States. And while this new disease might not be tick-borne, ticks are the number-one suspect. Nicholson says people should use repellent, check themselves for bites or ticks, and avoid certain areas - if possible - that might serve as good habitats for ticks, such as wooded areas and areas with fallen leaves.

soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. Bribarian

    Lots of new diseases and viruses been showing up since Obama doesnt want to secure the border.

    September 1, 2012 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Are you kidding me? Did you read the article? This virus isn't found anywhere else. Therefore, it didn't "come in" through a border, secured or otherwise. It's a new virus that emerged here.

      This just shows how insane and delusional the anti-Obama crowd is, if they're trying to blame the emergence of a new virus on the President.

      September 1, 2012 at 23:53 | Report abuse |
    • frsi

      That is the stupidest and most ignorant possible statement. Do you know anything at all? Or are you completely ignorant?

      September 2, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      This what happens to you when you have no friends and spend all of your time drinking alone in front of a computer in your mom's basement.

      September 2, 2012 at 01:44 | Report abuse |
    • biff

      You can't blame this virus on Obama BUT this did come out under his watch. So he is responsible just as Bush did not personally cause the economy to collapse BUT it did happen under his watch.

      September 2, 2012 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
    • michael

      Hummm. Interesting comment. Probably as interesting as the comment I am going to make:

      "You too are among the new American diseases (dis ease) with Obama who is simply trying to be equitable to everyone in protection of the larger American population and economy"

      Sadly, though, your myoptic thinking doesn't allow you to see this.

      I suppose you too, as a member of the GOP see "ObamaCare" which is now providing access to 21 million Americans as a "bad thing."

      Pathetic that you can't think for yourself, but, instead rely on vitrilotic rethoric from Romney and others to fuel your little mind.

      September 2, 2012 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Is there anything that is commented on that doesn't turn into a political statement? Or the fault of Mexicans? If you're serious please get professional help soon, or just get off the computer. When is the last day you went without a beer?

      September 2, 2012 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      Yet illness rates are down south of the Border...

      September 3, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
    • Lanken

      It is amazing to watch the knee-jerk lib smears. The poster never said that THIS virus came in because of Obama, only that it is likely to happen without our knowing it due in part to Obama policies. And, that is manifestly true. This virus has only appears in limited places outside of the U.S. It may be entirely new. It may not. Way too early to tell. But, given that the border are NOT very well secured, it is almost a certainty that some diseases, new to our experience, WILL be brought in from outside our borders. That is allegedly how the Europeans; i.e., the English, managed to kill off all those native peoples as they had so planned to do centuries before the existence of pathogens was known. Pretty clever of them, eh?? Libs, you really should read the post more carefully before spouting off your hatred.

      September 3, 2012 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • hawk

      Why don't you tea party things stay on fox so called news instead of over here spreading you lies and hate.

      September 3, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse |
    • SHAQ

      It seems that the anti Obama crowd will blame any and everything on Obama! Amazing!

      September 11, 2012 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
  2. Jane Mars

    People–it's an article about a virus, for God's sake. Must you turn everything into an excuse to be bizarrely nasty and base with your comments about completely unrelated topics? Please review your great-grandmother's advice,"if you can't say anything nice, just don't say anything at all." Try it for a week. Really, give the nastiness a rest. Reading the comments section of CNN stories is starting to convince me that there are a lot of seriously, seriously creepy and dangerous people out there–if you don't actually think you're a seriously creepy person, then stop writing like one.

    September 2, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. lucyH

    The way I read it, it's "a distant cousin to Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus (SFTSV), a virus found in central and northeastern China and known to cause death in 13 to 30% of patients." I assume that's where it came from

    September 2, 2012 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. lisbeth

    Bill, that's hilarious.

    September 2, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gary

    I have a co-worker who has been out of work since the end of June. It sounds like he has this thing! Some of his issues was hardening the coating on the brain (effect memory), white cell count down to nothing, and his joints went bad. He is on a series of antibiotics and just now came back to work, but is now out again for knee replacement surgery. This isn't a good thing and it is difficult to diagnose even by an expert. I agree if this was discovered in 2009, why is it only now making the news rounds. Could it be that it has been spreading rapidly now? Was this discussed in the medical periodicals and seminars so Doctors know about it and learn to diagnose this? Early diagnosis and treatment is very important here. Some of the issues you do not recover from. I have heard that several other south eastern states are starting to see people with similar symptoms showing up.

    September 3, 2012 at 05:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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  7. Kerri

    Yipee another virus! As if there isn't enough out there to avoid already. 🙁

    September 3, 2012 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. LTX

    I wonder if some of these new viruses could be the result of genetically modified fertilizers and herbicides? A mutation of some form in insects? Or, it made it to the US from China and entered into our already existing tick population. Could be a million things I guess...

    September 3, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mane

    Surprised its not blamed on Africans. Give it another week and it will be traced to a village in Africa from eating a modified corn.

    September 3, 2012 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. $tillRun!n1@ya.com

    Clocks have ticks....and tocks.

    September 3, 2012 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. drkathyday

    Viruses arise de novo all the time. The issue is not where it came form, but will it become endemic like Lyme's Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, two other diseases assumed to be tick borne. Anything which causes Thrombocytopoenia is potentially lethal. The article did not say what measures physicians took for the two farmers. It would be interesting to know if any antibiotics were successful, as they can be in Lyme's Disease.
    Meanwhile, it is important to find out more about tick bites adn how to avoid them–wearing light colored clothing that covers all parts of the body likely to come into contact with plants, such as putting pants legs into your socks; finding out when ticks are likely to be active in your area; avoiding walking through long grass or bushes when ticks are active. Looking for bites as soon as you return home adn having a family member look at the places you yourself can not see easily. Ticks do not usually start exchanging your blood for their secretions until twelve hours after the bite, so removing ticks as soon as possible may save one from any tick borne disease. Knowing how to remove the tick safely is a good idea too, as well as having a "tick removal kit" that has a magnifying glass, and a fine tweezers, and alcohol wipes is also a good idea.

    September 4, 2012 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kim

      My daughter had dying from lyme for about 9 years now. Be careful what you want to believe. It takes all your time and money when it comes to believing in doctors. She is almost completly cured and working on co-infections now that entered the blood at the same time. I'm telling ya, be careful what and who you want to believe. To get her life back, had nothing to do with any doctor's pills. Do your own research 'cause the ones being healed don't have anything to do with a doctor.

      September 4, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • professor

      Lyme's Disease responds to antibiotics because it is caused by a bacteria, not a virus. A virus will in no way, shape, or form respond to an antibiotic. Never. Antibiotic overuse in people (read children whose parents want a quick fix) with virus-caused 'colds' is a large part of the problem with respect to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

      September 24, 2012 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
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    Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Removing the tick's body helps you avoid diseases the tick may pass on during feeding. Removing the tick's head helps prevent an infection in the skin where it bit you. See the Home Treatment section of this topic for the best way to remove a tick.`,^^

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