If you’ve never heard of the Heartland virus, you’re not alone. Neither had the scientists who found it in two Missouri men who had been suffering fever, fatigue, diarrhea and low levels of blood platelets and white blood cells after being bitten by ticks. This virus appears to be new, though possibly related to one found in China called SFTSV (severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus) that causes fever and loss of blood platelets.
The fact that these two men are the only ones to have been treated for this virus, yet live 60 miles apart surely means that more people have been affected by this new disease. If symptoms can vary, it’s conceivable that many more have suffered from this virus, but with lesser symptoms that meant they didn’t go to see their doctor.
The reason for the name “Heartland” was because that this is where the virus was found but also because the doctor who found it works at the Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph. In 14 samples from sick patients in 2009, 12 had illnesses found to be caused by bacterial infection – a disease called Ehrlichiosis. 2 showed a virus as the cause, the now named Heartland virus.
The case of the two Missouri men was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.