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article imageNew ‘Heartland’ disease emerges in U.S. Midwest

By Tim Sandle     May 18, 2014 in Health
A rare viral infection has emerged in the central U.S. The virus causes fever, a drop in the blood’s infection-fighting white cells and a reduction in the blood’s clot-making platelets.
The virus is called Heartland disease — its name honors the Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo., where the first men infected with the virus were treated. The disease was first noticed in June 2009, when two Missouri farmers came to the hospital with severe flu-like symptoms.
Some early cases were reported by Digital Journal earlier in the year. New reports indicated that cases have risen, and there have now been eight confirmed cases.
The virus causes headaches, nausea, high fevers, diarrhea and gut-distress. Blood tests indicate low white-blood-cell counts. The disease appears to be spread by ticks. Through field studies conducted in 2012, researchers identified Lone Star ticks as the way by which the virus was spread, with evidence pointing to their larval blood meal as the time of infection.
However, much else about the disease remains a mystery. Daniel Pastula of the CDC in Fort Collins told Science Now: "No vaccine or medication is available to prevent or treat Heartland virus disease."
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