Tamela Wilson a Missouri woman dies of a rare tick bite since confirmed to be the deadly Bourbon virus which has only afflicted five others in the US. No cure.
The woman’s death comes after the Meramec State Park employee noticed two ticks lodged in her body in May.
At the time, Wilson removed the tick bites, continuing her post as assistant park superintendent.
But it didn’t end there….
Within days, Wilson became lethargic, incurring a fever and nausea. Doctors were baffled and diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection, sending her home with antibiotics.
Come May 31, Wilson’s condition deteriorated with the woman admitted to hospital, where blood tests revealed she had Bourbon virus, a rare and untreatable condition that first emerged in 2014.
Wilson spent weeks in intensive care, with doctors struggling to curb the disease – as she also developed pneumonia and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a condition which makes immune cells mutate.
On June 23, Wilson died.
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Distraught, her family members described the excruciating pain Tamela suffered in her final weeks.
‘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.’
‘She literally couldn’t even pick up her phone. She had no strength,’ Wilson’s daughter, Amie May, told CBS News. ‘My sister had been calling her and couldn’t get a hold of her. My mom said the phone was right there ringing, but she could not pick it up to answer it.’
‘We have no specific therapy for the virus,‘ Dr. Morey Gardner, director of the Infectious Diseases Center at St. Mary’s Hospital said.
Dr. Gardner recommended wearing bug repellent and regularly checking for ticks.
Adding, ‘It doesn’t mean not going outside, but it does mean being careful when you do go outside’.
Reiterated Kathy Potter, ‘It’s not something that any doctor will look for. you have to present it to them and by the time you find out it might be too late’.
Wilson’s family said she donated her body to science, hopeful it would help doctors fight the Bourbon Virus.
The disease has only been seen in five Americans to date, all in the Midwest and Southern parts of the US.
The first US case involved a 68-year-old man in Kansas, John Seested, who died two weeks after being bitten by a tick.
Before his diagnosis, there had only been eight incidents worldwide – all in Europe, Asia or Africa.
The virus is a type of thogotovirus, but it acts very differently.
Usually, thogotoviruses lead to meningitis, which inflames the lining of the brain. However, Bourbon virus attacks and destroys white blood cells at an alarming rate.
There is no treatment or vaccine.
Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urges people to use insect repellents, wear long sleeves and pants, avoid bushy and wooded areas, and to perform thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors.
Tamela’s case is the first reported in Missouri. It comes as the state battles an outbreak of Ehrlichiosis, a severe flu-like condition transmitted by ticks.
Of disconcert, Wilson’s daughter said after her mother’s death the CDC collected ticks at Meramec State Park to run tests, but she hasn’t heard from the agency since.