SULLIVAN, MO. - A Missouri woman died June 23 after contracting a rare tick-borne illness called Bourbon virus.
Tamela Wilson, 58, was the first person to test positive for the virus in Missouri, and is only the fifth confirmed case since it was identified in 2014, CBS reported. Wilson, who worked as a superintendent at Meramec State Park in Missouri, fell in ill shortly after she pulled two ticks off her body in May.
CBS reported that Wilson's doctor initially diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection and prescribed her antibiotics, but her condition continued to deteriorate.
"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."
Wilson was admitted to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital on May 31, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A blood test ruled out another tick-borne illness, so her blood was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed she had Bourbon virus.
There is no cure for the virus and May told the Post-Dispatch that her mother contracted secondary infections and her health continued to decline.
Three weeks after she was admitted to the hospital, Wilson died.
Steven Lawrence, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University, told the Post-Dispatch that not enough is known about the virus to identify the symptoms or the typical course of the illness.
Lawrence told the Post-Dispatch people should avoid tick bites, remove ticks promptly and be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms after a bite.
“There is nothing that would make us think that either Bourbon or Heartland are really common,” Lawrence told the Post-Dispatch. “This is an opportunity to say there are things we face every day that are much more of a problem. I see patients who get sick and die from tick-borne infections that could be prevented if people treated it early and doctors recognized it.”
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