First case of the tick-related Bourbon virus in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has received confirmation through laboratory testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a Payne County resident tested positive for a tick-borne disease caused by a recently identified virus known as the Bourbon virus.

This case is the first to be detected in Oklahoma, and only the second case in the United States.

Because the disease is so new, more research is needed to fully understand the severity and geographic range of Bourbon virus.

Symptoms of infection with Bourbon virus may include fever, severe muscle and joint pain, fatigue, disorientation, diarrhea and a rash. The Oklahoma patient first reported symptoms in May 2014, and has since made a full recovery.

Oklahoma ranks among those states with the highest incidence of other tick borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia. Symptoms of these more common tick borne illnesses may include fever, chills, headache, vomiting, rash or painful swelling of lymph nodes near the tick bite.

Although there is no treatment for Bourbon virus infections, most tick borne diseases can be treated successfully with early diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics, so it is important to seek medical attention if a fever and other signs of illness are noticed within 14 days of a tick bite or being in an area where ticks are lurking.

The OSDH advises persons who participate in hiking, camping, bicycle trail riding, yard work, gardening and other outdoor activities to prevent tick bites by following the tips below.

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to see and remove before attachment.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks to deprive ticks of attachment sites.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes, not sandals.
  • Hikers and cyclists should stay in the center of trails to avoid grass and brush.
  • Check for ticks at least once per day, particularly along waistbands, hairline and back of neck, in the armpits and groin area. Remove attached ticks as soon as possible using tweezers or fingers covered with a tissue.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET on skin and clothing according to directions.

(Insect repellents with permethrin should be used on clothing only and according to directions.)

Check with a veterinarian about tick control for pets. Dogs and cats can get tick borne illnesses too, and they are a traveling tick parade, bringing ticks into a home if not on a tick preventive regimen.