What is the Heartland Virus, and is it Dangerous?
The mysterious Heartland Virus, named after a medical center in St. Joseph, Missouri, does not have many victims to date but doctors are warning that as a tick-borne illness it may create potential issues for people who get it while communing with nature. Out of six patients identified initially four required hospitalization, and one died, though this person may have had other contributing health factors.
Some of the symptoms of the Heartland virus are listed as fever, diarrhea, low blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) and low white blood cell count (leukopenia). For you amateur medical students out there, the fever was greater than 100.4 degrees F, WBC count under 4.5k cells per cubic millimeter, and platelets below 150k per cubic millimeter. Detection is done with viral RNA or complex tests that can't be done at home. When these symptoms are seen, it is vital to have medical professionals diagnose the illness, since symptoms match many other illnesses.
Comparison to Lyme Disease
An important distinction between the illnesses are that Lyme disease comes from a bacteria while the Heartland illness is virally based. Though they both are associated with tick bites, illness factors diverge at this point, along with treatment protocols.
In cases of the new illness, patients did not respond to antibacterial treatment, .
In both illnesses, prevention is exactly the same: use insect repellent containing permethrin, avoid wooded and bushy areas, get a flea and tick collar for animals, check for ticks after spending time out of doors, and try to prevent areas of ingress by either wearing long pants down to the bootline or keeping clothes tucked into footwear where practical. Hunters and off-trail hikers are advised to bathe or shower after coming indoors to wash off and find ticks, brush pets and look for pests on clothing.