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Missouri state park workers give blood for tick-borne disease investigation

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - 9/22/2017

Sept. 22--The ongoing investigation into tick-borne diseases at Meramec State Park has expanded to include blood testing of some state park employees, health officials said this week.

Investigators with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will check for evidence of Bourbon virus infection in the workers' blood.

Tamela Wilson, Meramec State Park's assistant superintendent, died June 23 from complications of the virus, a rare disease thought to be carried by ticks.

Thousands of ticks were collected from the park in June and shipped to the CDC in Atlanta for disease testing.

There have only been a handful of confirmed cases of Bourbon virus, which was discovered in 2014 after a man living in Bourbon County in eastern Kansas came down with flu-like symptoms and died after being bitten by ticks.

Scientists have not definitively traced the virus to tick bites, although it is highly likely because of the patients' histories of tick bites and the virus' similarity to the tick-borne Heartland virus, discovered in Missouri in 2009. The symptoms of Bourbon virus include fever, headache, body aches, rash and fatigue.

While there is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, it is extremely rare and does not constitute a public health threat, experts said.


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