Woman dies from recently discovered tick-borne virus

Woman dies from recently discovered tick-borne virus
Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 12:11:28-04

ST. LOUIS (KMOV/CNN) - A family is speaking out after a woman died last month while carrying a deadly tick-borne illness known as the Bourbon virus.

Tamela Wilson’s parents said doctors didn’t initially know to test for the disease - the virus was only discovered in 2014 and not many cases have been identified. Wilson, 58, was only the fifth confirmed case.

“It makes you fearful about going outside,” said Kathy Potter, Wilson's stepmother.

Wilson lived and worked at Meramec State Park in Sullivan, Mo. The family said doctors were dumbfounded on her initial visit. She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and given antibiotics.

Because only a small group of people have been diagnosed, researchers are still learning about the Bourbon virus, the CDC reports. People who have had the disease had symptoms including fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea, and vomiting. 

“Every day, we’d go to the hospital and she’d get worse. No improvement,” said Wilson’s father, Geoff Potter.

Eventually, Wilson was transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, but the doctors there didn’t know what to do, either.

“The doctors were beside themselves. They said it was a medical mystery,” Geoff Potter said.

Dr. Morey Gardner, who directs the Infectious Diseases Center at St. Mary’s Hospital, said there is no specific therapy for the virus. He recommends wearing bug repellant and regularly checking for ticks.

“It doesn’t mean not going outside, but it does mean being careful when you do go outside,” Gardner said.

The Potters are warning everyone to be aware.

“It’s not something that any doctor would look for,” Kathy Potter said. “You have to present it to them, and by the time you find out, it might be too late.”

Wilson’s family said she donated her body to science, hoping it would help doctors make progress fighting the Bourbon Virus.

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