Jun 022014

body_lone_starWe all know about Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick borne illnesses, but have you heard of the Heartland Virus?

According to recent reports by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) Heartland virus is in the phlebovirus family and since it was discovered in 2009 in Missouri, the Lone Star Ticks and disease has spread from Texas to the Eastern States (see map). The insect is small — several would fit on a fingertip — and has a single spot on its back.

Symptoms included fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, nausea or muscle pain. Studies are looking to confirm whether ticks can spread the virus to people and to learn what other insects or animals may be involved in the transmission cycle.

There is no specific treatment, vaccine or drug for Heartland virus disease. Because it is caused by a virus, the disease also does not respond to antibiotics used to treat tick-borne bacterial infections such as Lyme disease. However, supportive therapies such as IV fluids and fever reducers can relieve some symptoms.

To reduce the risk of Heartland and other vector-borne diseases, the CDC recommends that people:

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Use insect repellent when outdoors
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you
  • Conduct a full-body tick check after spending time outdoors
  • Examine gear and pets, as ticks can “ride” into the home and attach to a person later

Use  tick bite prevention, such as using bug spray that contains DEET, wearing light-colored clothing and tucking pants inside socks if you are spending a lot of time outdoors, and hiking in woodland areas.

If you have someone in your home available, ask for help with a full body check after being outside. This includes underneath the arms, the creases of the neck, between your toes and between your buttock cheeks.
If you have a beloved pet that you allow on furniture or your bed, it would be wise not to sleep with him/her, as ticks can travel from your pet onto you while you sleep.
Thoroughly check your pet for ticks when they come into the house after spending time outdoors.

Click here for tips from the CDC on tick removal.

Ticks are small – only about the size of a sesame seed if you find one on yourself, keep in mind that the tick usually has to feed on your blood for at least 24 hours to pass on a disease. 

People should monitor their health closely after any tick bite, and should consult their physician if they experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite. These can be signs of a number of tickborne diseases, according to the CDC. Some people who’ve contracted the virus did not show any symptoms until 14 days after being bitten.

The CDC report said there is still no vaccine or medication to prevent or treat Heartland virus disease.

If you are totally curious, check out this Horrifying photo of a human infected by the Lone Star Tick.


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