In a new study released on August 29, 2012, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a new “phlebovirus,” (a distant cousin to one recently identified in China,) has been identified after putting two men in the hospital in critical condition.
Health Day News interviewed the CDC and discovered that it is thought to be carried by the one Star Tick.
“This is a unique virus that’s never before been seen . . . [though] I’m sure it’s been around for some time and we didn’t know about it,” said study co-author William Nicholson, chief of pathogen biology and disease ecology activity at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
“It’s very likely that other people have had this, but we don’t know the true public health impact at this point.” for was likely carried on the lone star tick and caused severe symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, diarrhea, weight loss and low blood-cell counts.”
Due to the inaccurate recording and reporting of other tick-borne diseases, especially Lyme disease, the thought of another potentially fatal disease appearing out of nowhere reads like a horror novel rather than a medical journal.
The speed and accuracy with which the CDC responded is amazing in contrast to the thousands of suffering victims of other tick-borne diseases – many who have died – over the last 30 years.
For me this raises more questions – alarming questions – about what could be coming next and what will happen with this new information.
Will any action be taken by the CDC?
Will efforts be made to eradicate this dangerous phlebovirus or will the CDC take a “wait and see” approach?
Other phleboviruses are spread by mosquitoes and biting sandflies in addition to ticks. How can the CDC be sure this new disease is carried only by ticks?
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an attending physician in infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. said, “”We don’t know if these symptoms were typical for a case of this virus,” Hirsch said, “and if this virus might be killing people.”
Lone star ticks, common in northwestern Missouri where the two men were diagnosed, are found in the south-central and southeastern states, and along the East Coast up to Maine.
The CDC now claims that the Lone Star tick does not transmit Lyme although up until the fall of 2010 their online Tick Image Library stated that the Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted by Brown Dog, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and Lone Star, Amblyomma americanum, ticks. The CDC now claims this was an error.
You may have heard of “STARI” or “Master’s Disease” named after Dr. Masters who carefully recorded and treated thousands of patients over twenty-five years documenting the similarities between Lyme disease and this “unknown” disease that behaved so much like Lyme disease.
The disease was eventually labeled as Borrelia lonestari and has been detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in Lone Star ticks removed from humans, as well as in Lone Star ticks collected during general epidemiological studies. More convincingly, B. lonestari DNA was detected by PCR in the biopsied skin lesion of a patient with a history of recent Lone Star tick bite, while B. burgdorferi DNA was absent in the same sample. The bulls-eye rash are indistinguishable from Borrelia burgdorferi rashes.
The hallmark of Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness is the Lyme-like lesion. The rash usually appears within seven days of a Lone Star tick bite, and similar to the Lyme lesion, expands in a circular or elliptical fashion. Patients with STARI can also have constitutional symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, myalgias and joint pain, but these are less frequent and generally less severe in STARI patients than in patients with Lyme disease.
According to Columbia University Medical Center the full clinical picture of STARI is not well understood, but there is general consensus that the post-rash sequelae of STARI are significantly milder than those of Lyme disease. Some physicians in areas endemic for STARI have reported post-rash neurologic and cardiac manifestations in rare cases, but these are not universally accepted findings. Long term follow up studies of STARI patients have never been performed.
Regardless, the Lone Star ticks are also vectors of Q fever and human monocytic ehrlichiosis, two potentially fatal infections and physicians and communities across the country need to be aware of the possibility of coinfections that now include a rare and dangerous plebovirus.