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Rare tickborne illness identified in southeast Kansas resident

TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and Crawford County Health Department have identified Heartland Virus Disease (Heartland), a rare tickborne illness, in a Crawford County resident. Health care providers diagnosed the resident in late May 2023 after further testing was coordinated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is the first case of Heartland in Crawford County and only the third case identified in Kansas since the virus’s discovery in northwest Missouri in 2009. The previous two cases were identified in Miami County in 2015 and Anderson County in 2018.

To date, there have been over 50 cases of Heartland diagnosed across areas of the Midwest and Southern United States.

“We’re entering the time of year when we start to receive a lot of complaints about ticks on animals and in the environment and questions regarding tick bites and tickborne diseases in people. People must take the risk of tickborne disease seriously and take personal protective measures for themselves and their pets to reduce their chance of acquiring a tickborne illness,” said Dr. Erin Petro, DVM, MPH, KDHE public health veterinarian. “While Heartland and other tickborne viruses like Bourbon virus are rare, they can lead to severe illness and even death.”

Heartland virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected Lone Star Tick, the most common tick in Kansas, which is most active from May through August. The symptoms of Heartland are vague and include fever, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, headache and occasionally a rash. Health care providers should consider Heartland in patients with compatible clinical illness and bloodwork findings when other common tickborne illness testing is negative.

This case serves as an important reminder to take precautions as you enjoy the outdoors this summer. Ticks are commonly found at the edge of trails, on tall grasses and in wooded, shaded areas. To reduce the risk of contracting a tickborne disease, take the following steps:

  • Wear long pants with socks tucked into pants and long sleeves when doing yardwork, hiking, camping or recreating in areas where ticks may be found.
  • After being outdoors in tick habitats, take a shower to help wash off unattached ticks and identify any attached ticks. Always perform a thorough tick check after being outdoors.
  • Reduce tick habitats in your yard by clearing brush, leaf litter and tall grasses around your home and at the edge of your lawn.
  • Apply an EPA-approved repellent, such as DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, when enjoying the outdoors.
  • If hunting or camping, consider treating gear and clothing with permethrin; always follow label directions for safe application of permethrin.

Additional information about Heartland Virus can be found on the CDC website.


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