Lone star tick linked to Heartland virus now found in 6 states

This virus was first identified in 2009. It can cause severe disease in humans.

Lone star tick linked to Heartland virus now found in 6 states

A new study published Wednesday reported that ticks carrying a rare and mysterious virus that can kill or sicken older adults or those with underlying conditions were found in at least six states.

The Heartland virus was detected in lone stars from Georgia, according to Emory University researchers.

"We want to raise awareness, not panic," stated Gonzalo M. Valez-Prokopec (a co-author and associate professor of environmental sciences at Emory). People tend to be more active in spring, and might become exposed to ticks, especially in the South at this time of the year.

The Heartland virus is still unknown. It can be transmitted by tick bites to cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue and nausea. The CDC stated that it is not clear if other ticks could spread the virus, or if there are other ways people can get infected.

According to the CDC, only 50 cases of the virus-related disease have been reported as of January 2021. The CDC reported that patients who have been in severe cases have had to be admitted to the hospital. While most of these patients are now fully healthy and receiving supportive care, a few people with serious medical conditions have also died.

Some people with the virus may have lower white blood cell counts than usual and lower platelet counts, which aid blood clotting. Increased levels of liver enzymes can be a sign that there is a problem.

After two men suffered high fevers and muscle pains in 2009, the Heartlandvirus was found in northwest Missouri. According to the CDC, the virus has been found in lone stars ticks from Missouri and Illinois as well as Kansas and New York. However, it is not known if the virus may have spread to other parts of the United States.

It has been shown that lone star ticks can also carry bacteria that causes the diseases ehrlichiosis, and tuberculosis. Some people have developed meat allergies from eating a single star tick.

Vazquez Prokopec and his associates collected 2,960 ticks from the Georgia county where a person was formally diagnosed with Heartland virus. Two ticks were positive for the virus.

Although there has been a very small number of Heartland viruses cases, a CDC Blood Bank Studyin 2019 revealed that 1 percent of donor samples had antibodies to the virus. Vazquez Prokopec stated.

He stated that this indicated that the real burden and impact could be greater than reported cases.

Douglas Norris, an expert in molecular immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, stated that the data from blood banks suggests that not all people are affected by the virus.

Norris stated that "it's most definitely underreported", adding that the CDC does not require that cases be reported.

Vazquez Prokopec stated that ticks are the leading source of pathogens in America's continental U.S. In 2019, there were 50.865 tick-borne diseases according to the CDC. Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the U.S.

Multiple diseases can be carried by the lone star tick. The black-legged tick, most well-known for spreading Lyme disease, can transmit other diseases via bites.

Climate change and ticks

Rafal Tokarz, a tick expert, is not surprised that Heartland virus-infected single star ticks are rapidly spreading.

Tokarz, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, stated that a tick attached to a Long Island resident in 2021 was tested positive for the virus. They weren't common on Long Island before the 1970s. They were very, very common by the 1990s.

Tokarz stated that it's likely that climate changehas had an effect.

He said, "Ticks like higher temperatures."

Tick-borne viruses can be transmitted very quickly compared to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, which can take Powassanvirus," stated Laura Harrington, Cornell University professor of entomology and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vegetable Borne Diseases. Powassan can be transmitted within 15 minutes. It is believed that other viruses may follow a similar pattern.

Harrington stated that you should not wait until the end to check for ticks. You may be best to check for ticks regularly.

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