LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 7, 2017) -- Arkansas has identified its first case of Heartland virus, a relatively new tick-borne disease, in an individual living in the northwest part of the state.
People become infected with Heartland virus through the bite of the Lone Star tick. Patients are most likely to be diagnosed with Heartland virus from May to September. Heartland virus causes a flu-like illness, including fever, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, appetite loss, and feeling very tired. Most cases have low numbers of cells that fight infection and low numbers of cells that help blood clot. There is no vaccine or drug to prevent or treat the disease.
"It's a flu-like illness where you're stiff, you're achy, you run a fever, you've got headaches, this one often has diarrhea, which isn't always the case with some of the others, loss of appetite," said Dr. Sue Weinstein, the state public health veterinarian. "It can get quite serious. A lot of patients with this are hospitalized, but most recover. There's only been one death in the nation and that was in someone who was quite elderly and other medical issues at the time."
In 2009, two people admitted to Heartland Hospital in Missouri were later found to be infected with this virus. Both recovered, but the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about the virus.
To date, more than 20 cases of Heartland virus disease have been identified in several states in Southeast and South Central United States, so it is not surprising that Arkansas has a case. Most patients require hospitalization for their illness but fully recover. One patient has died. The Arkansas patient has recovered fully.
Arkansas has some of the highest rates in the nation for tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia. Anaplasmosis and Lyme Disease may also occur. People who work or do activities outside, where they are exposed to ticks or insects, are more likely to be infected.
Preventing bites from ticks and mosquitoes are the best way to prevent these and other infections:
-Use insect repellents
-Wear long sleeves and pants
-Avoid bushy and wooded areas
-Perform thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors
For more information, visit healthy.arkansas.gov.