A tickborne illness that is usually only found in the midwest region is now getting attention after being found in Georgia. Researchers have studied ticks in Georgia for the virus after a resident of the state reportedly got sick and died from the disease.
The study sampled around 9,294 Amblyomma americanum ticks from 26 sites in the state of Georgia between 2018 and 2019. The researchers discovered the presence of a Heartland virus in two different groups of ticks.
“Public health experts and Clinicians should know about this new tickborne pathogen,” the study’s researchers concluded.
Heartland virus is one that isn’t as well-known as some other tickborne viruses like Lyme disease is but it could be serious. Here is what you should know about the virus.
What is Heartland virus, exactly?
Heartland virus is an illness that is usually spread by getting bit from an infected lone star tick. A lot of people that get infected with the virus start developing the following symptoms:
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle or joint pain
While it is possible to have a milder infection, many individuals with Heartland virus have to be hospitalized due to their symptoms, the CDC said.
Heartland virus could also cause people to develop decreased white blood counts and decreased counts of platelets, which help clot your blood, per the CDC.
Where can the Heartland virus usually be found?
Heartland virus is a “newly defined virus,” said William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease expert and professor. Meaning, it is pretty new to physicians and researchers. In fact, it was initially detected in two farmers from Missouri in 2009.
As of Jan. 2021, there have been over 50 cases of the Heartland virus diagnosed within the U.S. It has specifically shown up in the following states, per CDC data:
- North Carolina
But, Dr. Schaffner said, it is possible the virus has spread even more than that. “We are now starting to do research and discovering that it is there,” he said.
How did the Heartland virus spread to humans?
The Heartland virus belongs to the viral genus Bandavirus, which has other tickborne illnesses as well, the CDC said. While research has shown that it is usually spread by a lone star tick, it is not known at this point if other kinds of ticks are able to spread the virus or if some people can be infected with virus in some other ways.
Worth noting: Symptoms could take up to two weeks to develop after you have been bitten by a tick that is infected.