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What is Heartland Virus?

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more insect-borne viruses to cause you and your family harm, we are about to add another one to the list.  The Heartland Virus is a relatively new disease having first been described in 2012, and with no vaccination or specific treatment to cure the disease, prevention is the best method to keep yourself from being exposed.  Thankfully we are here to tell you exactly what the Heartland Virus is and how to prevent yourself from contracting it.

What is the Heartland Virus?

Heartland virus comes from the family of viruses known as Phleboviruses and is commonly passed through to people by a mosquito, sandfly and more frequently the Lone Star tick found from Texas to the Midwest and further up the east coast.  According to the CDC, since March 2014 eight cases of the Heartland virus have been presented in the area of Missouri and Tennessee.  In June 2014 CBS New York reported the death of family lawn business owner and lover of the great outdoors, Johnny Mitzner.  Mr. Mitnzer was bitten by a tick in May and within a week was hospitalized before eventually dying of the virus.

What Are the Symptoms of the Heartland Virus?

Although scientists are still learning about the disease, there are several symptoms experienced by all the cases identified which you can look out for.  All the patients diagnosed with Heartland virus came down with a fever, experienced fatigue and complained of headaches.  Some presented with nausea, muscle aches, diarrhea and loss of appetite.  All the cases presented had low numbers of cells which enable the body to fight infection.

Most of the cases known to CDC required hospitalization, and while most patients fully recovered from the virus, two men have died. It is also noted that of the cases identified all were males aged 50 years or older with the symptom onset occurring during May-September.

What Is the Risk of Infection?

As people are more likely to be infected with the Heartland virus through the bite of a tick or other insects such as a mosquito, those who work or undertake activities outdoors are at greater risk. According to Texas AgriLife Researcher Dr. Mike Merchant, you are more likely to encounter the Lone Star ticks in their natural environment where there are shrubs and wildlife, not just in your backyard.

How to Protect Yourself from Heartland Virus

At this stage, there is no vaccine of drug treatment to prevent the disease and tests to tell if a person is infected with the Heartland virus are still in development.  So your best solution is to know what the Heartland virus is and prevent yourself from being bitten by ticks and mosquitoes.

  • Always apply insect repellents when venturing outdoors
  • Wear long sleeves and pants particularly during the times of increased insect activity
  • Avoid bushy, overgrown woodland areas
  • Routinely check for ticks on your family and pets after spending time outdoors

If you are concerned you or someone else might be infected with Heartland virus it is important to consult your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis.  It is not yet known whether animals can be infected with the virus, so consult your doctor if your pet or livestock present with any unusual symptoms that are of concern.

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