Woman Dies From Tick-Born Virus


Lyme, West Nile, Zika, the list of insect-borne illnesses to worry about seems to get longer, and scarier, every year. Now, a new disease in our area has doctors dumbfounded.

Tamela Wilson, 58, is the first person in Missouri to test positive for the tick-borne illness known as the Bourbon Virus.

“You wouldn’t want this for your worst enemy,” said Wilson’s stepmother Kathy Potter.

Wilson’s only the fifth confirmed case of the deadly disease since it was first discovered in 2014.

“It makes you fearful about going outside,” said Potter. The mother of three lived and worked at Meramec State Park in Sullivan for the last 10 years.

She went to see a doctor in Sullivan after removing two seed ticks shortly after the Memorial Day weekend.  The family told News 4 the physician diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection and gave her antibiotics.

“Everyday we’d go to the hospital and she’d get worse, no improvement,” said Wilson’s father Geoff Potter.

Wilson was eventually transferred to Barnes, but the family said even they didn’t know what to do.

“The doctors were beside themselves,” said Geoff Potter. “They said it’s a medical mystery.”

“We have no specific therapy for the virus,” said Dr. Morey Gardner, Director of the Infectious Diseases Center at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Dr. Gardner recommends wearing bug repellent, long clothing and regularly checking for ticks.

“It doesn’t mean not going outside, but it does mean being careful when you do,” said Dr. Gardner.

The Center for Disease Control is collecting ticks at Meramec State Park to run tests.

Wilson’s family said she had donated her body to science, in hopes researchers will find something helpful for the next person to test positive for the Bourbon Virus.

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