It’s a scary idea to consider, but even as our modern medical science makes huge advances, new types of bacteria and viruses that could cause us serious harm are always evolving. Like all life forms, these disease-causing agents change and adapt constantly.
Most of the time our understanding of health and science outpaces the development of new types of illnesses, and we can stop bacteria and viruses in their tracks. Sometimes, though, they get a leg up on us.
Just look at this unusual incident in Kansas. A farmer who’d recently been bitten by ticks went to the hospital with symptoms that doctors thought indicated Lyme Disease, but when they looked at his blood work, they were shocked to find a type of virus that had never ever been seen before.
In 2014, a farmer from Bourbon County, Kansas went to the hospital with a high fever, nausea, and a rash. He told doctors he had gotten several tick bites recently, so they assumed he had Lyme disease.
His blood-work, however, showed no trace of Lyme disease, although he did have another virus, presumably transmitted by the ticks, which appeared to be causing his symptoms.
Further research revealed that this was an entirely new kind of infection that was distinct from anything else humans have ever contracted. His doctors named it the “Bourbon virus” after the area he was from.
In some ways it was similar to the Bakten thogotovirus which is endemic to Asia, but was distinct in several important ways that meant doctors couldn’t treat it. Unfortunately, the farmer ended up passing away from its complications.
Doctors thought perhaps the Bourbon virus was a one-time evolutionary fluke, but a year later another person who had been bitten by a tick in nearby Stillwater, Oklahoma contracted it. Thankfully though, this patient made a full recovery.
At this time doctors still don’t fully understand the unique virus, and there’s no specific vaccine to prevent it or treatment to cure it. The best advice researchers have regarding it is simply to avoid tick bites.
It’s pretty scary to think there are new types of diseases forming that we know next to nothing about fighting. Hopefully we don’t hear to much more about the Bourbon virus!