Anyone who’s spent an extended period of time in the countryside will know how easy it is to fall prey to ticks. Most will agree that the idea of something latching onto you in order to consume your blood is pretty disgusting. Yet ticks are, on the whole, mostly harmless, especially if you’ve had the correct vaccinations.
Note how I said mostly harmless. Tamela Wilson, a 58-year-old mother from Missouri, U.S., worked as a park manager in Meramec State Park, when one day she noticed she’d attracted two ticks.
She removed them and continued with her shift as usual. After all, ticks aren’t uncommon, and there was little to be gained from worrying about the two that had clung to her body.
However, merely a few days later she fell ill and developed a fever. Doctors were confused by her symptoms, eventually diagnosing her with a urinary tract infection and sending her home with antibiotics.
After just one week, though, on May 31, 2017, Tamela’s condition worsened and she was rushed to hospital.
Blood samples were then able to tell that she’d contracted the Bourbon virus – an unusual and untreatable virus first recorded in the U.S. in 2014. Tamela spent several weeks in intensive care as doctors struggled to try and combat the disease. According to British newspaper the Daily Mail, however, nothing worked.
By June 23, she was dead.
Her grieving family members later described what incredible pain Tamela suffered during her last weeks of life.
“You wouldn’t want this for your worst enemy,” her stepmother Kathy Potter told Fox 6 News. “It makes you fearful of going outside.”
Tamela’s father Geoff added: “The doctors were beside themselves. They said it’s a medical mystery.
“Every day we’d go to the hospital and she’d get worse. No improvement.”
Fifth case in the U.S.
Tamela became the fifth recorded victim of the Bourbon virus in the United States. 68-year-old John Seested, from Kansas, was the first.
He died just two weeks after being bitten by a tick. Before his diagnosis, there had only been eight reported cases worldwide.
The Bourbon virus attacks white blood cells extremely quickly. There is currently no known vaccine or cure.
The only way to protect yourself is to guard against catching the disease in the first place. Using insect spray and wearing long-sleeved clothing is recommended to keep ticks at bay, whilst avoiding long grass and dense woodland can also keep you tick-free. Always check yourself and your children after a day outside; often it can take a while for the tick to get the necessary hold to begin feeding as it would like.
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Although it’s extremely rare to contract Bourbon virus, ticks can spread other diseases if one is not vaccinated.