A relatively rare tick-borne disease known as Heartland Virus has claimed two lives and infected at least 10 people according to the Centers for Disease Control. Johnny Mitzner who owned a lawn company was bitten by a lone star tick and acquired Heartland Virus. He was hospitalized with a few days and eventually died from the virus.
Mitzner’s son, Mark is still dumbfounded by the swiftness of his father’s demise, “What happened to him was probably one of the most destructive things I’ve seen as far as a sickness goes.”
The CDC reports that the disease is usually detected during May-September. They report that all patients had a fever and felt very tired while some reported headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea, loss of appetite. “They all had low numbers of cells that fight infection and that help blood clot. Most patients required hospitalization for their illness.”
First detected in 2009 in Missouri, the virus is thought to spread through bites from Lone Star ticks, which are found from Texas to Iowa, but may also reach as far as Maine. The virus has affected the midwest states so far but with the emergence of insects expected this year due to the changing climate temperatures.
Doctors are not yet sure whether these are isolated cases or a prelude of what may be to come during the hot summer months, and urge precautionary measures whenever out in grassy areas. Preventative measures include wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, using insect repellent, avoiding wooded and bushy areas, and performing regular ticks checks on yourself and your pets. It is also prudent to never let your dogs roam free in places where ticks might hide.