Experts Concerned About Ticks Carrying Heartland Virus

Experts Concerned About Ticks Carrying Heartland Virus

( – You may remember the Lone Star tick. Allergists across the southwest spent years trying to figure out why people were suddenly developing adverse reactions to red meat. As it turns out, a bite from the wrong tick can introduce a type of sugar humans haven’t processed naturally for 28 million years, leading to some nasty consequences.

Now, the Lone Star tick is making headlines again as a carrier of the Heartland virus, which causes mild to severe illness and can be deadly to some people. According to the CDC, there are currently no vaccines or preventive treatments for the virus. The agency encourages people who experience symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, diarrhea, nausea, joint or muscle aches, and decreased appetite, to see their doctor. The virus can also impact liver function and cause low counts of white blood cells and platelets.

The virus is now known to exist in six states; Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, and New York all have confirmed cases. A recent study on ticks from Georgia has brought the virus into the spotlight, as its circulation between ticks in that state has now been confirmed.

Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, the senior author of the Georgia study, says it’s important for experts to learn as much as possible about the virus before it becomes a bigger issue. He pointed out that while tick-borne illnesses pose a real threat, we shouldn’t panic but instead continue gathering more information about it.

Ticks are particularly nasty little parasites that secrete all kinds of offensive – and defensive – measures to keep them on their host. Their saliva contains anesthetics to dull the pain of the bite, as well as anti-coagulants to keep the blood flowing and anti-inflammatories to keep the bite area from swelling, thus helping the bloodsucker evade detection. As always when dealing with ticks, paying close attention when walking off the beaten path and checking for passengers at the end of hikes and outdoor play are the best ways to prevent infected tick bites.

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