Bourbon Virus

Researchers have identified a previously unknown virus, thought to be transmitted by ticks or other insects, that led to the death of a farmer in Kansas (USA) during the summer of 2014. The first symptoms were fever, low red and white blood cell counts, elevated liver enzymes and loss of appetite. The illness was fast-moving and severe, causing lung and kidney failure, and shock. The man, previously healthy, died after about only 10 days in the hospital[1].

The newly discovered infectious agent has been named the Bourbon virus, named after Bourbon County, part of Kansas City, where the patient had lived. Laboratory tests finally determined that the virus belongs to the ever expanding family of Orthomyxoviruses.
The Bourbon virus possesses a genome similar to that of related viruses in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dr. J. Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the C.D.C. laboratory in Fort Collins, Colo. She said the virus was part of the thogotoviruses, a subdivision of the Orthomyxoviruses. Scientists think the Bourbon Virus has been around for some time and suspect there have possibly been milder cases, but information is still scarce.

What this discovery demonstrates is that the Orthomyxoviruses, a family that also harbours the Influenza viruses, is seemingly expanding at a hightened pace. The Bourbon Virus is deadly, even for healthy individuals.

The Bourbon Virus belongs to the Thogotoviruses and that makes it a direct relative of the influenza viruses because all are part of the larger family of Orthomyxoviruses. The genus Togotoviruses has nine known distinct members: Thogoto Virus, Dhori Virus, Araguari Virus, Batken VirusJos Virus, Upolu Virus, Aransas Bay Virus, Bourbon Virus and Sinu Virus.

[Update July 2017] As of June 27, 2017, a limited number of Bourbon virus disease cases have been identified in the Midwest and southern United States. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea and vomiting. Some people who have been infected later died. At this time, the CDC does not know if the virus might be found in other areas of the United States. However, people over age 50 and those with chronic health problems are more likely to develop a serious illness that can lead to complications[2].

[1] Kansas Department of Health and Environment: KDHE and CDC Investigate New Virus – December 22th, 2014. See here.
[2] CDC: National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases: Bournbon Virus - Last updated: June 28, 2017. See here.

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