Bourbon Virus – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments

Bourbon virus is a member of the thogotoviruses, of which various different strains can be found in dozens of countries globally. Discovered in early 2015 and quickly identified as a potential killer, Bourbon virus is spread via insect bites – most predominantly via ticks. In the months following the discovery of the virus in the United States, very few cases of Bourbon virus were identified by experts. Medical researchers and scientists both predicted that the spread of Bourbon virus would continue and accelerate with time, though insist there’s no specific cause for widespread concern among the public.


Extensive research is still being carried out into the exact transmission methods by which Bourbon virus is spread, though evidence suggests that ticks represent the primary source for human cases. Of the cases brought to the attention of medical teams so far, all presented with insect bites – predominantly those of ticks. It was also noted that as cases of Bourbon virus were documented at times of year when mosquitos are comparatively less abundant in numbers, the most likely cause in all cases was tick bites.

 Confirmed Cases

As of June 2015, only two confirmed cases of Bourbon virus had been reported in the United States – one of which proved fatal. The two cases were identified in Kansas and Oklahoma – the disease having been named after the location of the first and only fatal case at the time – the city of Bourbon. Despite several months of concerted research having been carried out by the CDC, WHO and local health authorities alike, how far Bourbon virus may have spread across the US remains unknown.


With so few cases to go on given the brand new nature of the disease, experts are still unsure as to which specific symptoms are indicative of a case of Bourbon virus. However, of the two confirmed cases in the United States, both individuals reported experiencing fever, tiredness, rash, headache, general body aches, nausea and vomiting. As each of these symptoms can both alone and in conjunction with others be associated with dozens of other conditions and illnesses, they cannot be used to identify Bourbon virus without much deeper investigation and testing.

What’s the Risk?

Bourbon virus has to date been linked with bites from infected ticks. The greatest risk of picking up the disease may be those exposed to ticks on a regular or prolonged basis. Those working in agriculture or outdoor pursuits of any kind may find themselves in a higher Bourbon virus risk bracket, along with anyone not taking the correct precautions in areas where tick populations are particularly high.

Prevention and Avoidance

Bourbon virus is newly discovered disease and therefore has not given the scientific community long enough to produce an effective preventative drug or vaccine. As such, the only way of avoiding Bourbon virus is to avoid exposure to its sources – believed to be tick bites. Standard tick bite prevention methods are therefore advised, which include:

  • Insect repellant use around the home
  • Avoidance of any wooded or grassy areas with high tick populations
  • Wearing longer pants and sleeved tops when outdoors
  • Checking yourself and family members for ticks after returning indoors
  • Avoiding close contact with animals that may be carrying ticks

Identification and Diagnosis

Doctors have so far been unable to develop a conclusive test or method of diagnosis for Bourbon virus due to the insufficient number of confirmed cases. Extensive tests will be carried out on any person who suspects they may have picked up the disease, therefore should any of the above-mentioned symptoms present, it’s important to seek professional advice immediately.

Treatment and Prognosis

Bourbon virus itself is so new that there is no specific treatment for the disease. Nor is there a known cure. Instead, doctors focus on treating the symptoms presented by the Bourbon virus. Pain killers and fever treatments may be offered at home or in hospitals intravenously, though disease like Bourbon virus are resistant to antibiotics.

Animal Carriers

While there’s no evidence to date to suggest that Bourbon virus has the potential to make animals and livestock sick, animals may still carry the infected ticks that can spread the virus to humans. Experts are therefore advising extreme caution when it comes to making physical contact with any wild animals, or domestic pets that have been allowed to run free in bush, grassy or wooded areas.