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Six Months After His Death, Doctors Determine the Alarming Cause: ‘No Virus Like That Has Ever Been Identified in the Western Hemisphere’

"This was the first known instance and the only confirmed case."

The "Bourbon virus" is thought to be tick-borne. (Image source: Flickr/RobandSheila)

A Kansas resident who died in the summer has led experts to identify a new virus never-before-seen in the U.S.

"Its genome is similar to viruses that have been found in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, but no virus like that has ever been identified in the western hemisphere," University of Kansas Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Dana Hawkinson said in a video posted online.

[sharequote align="center"]"[N]o virus like that has ever been identified in the western hemisphere."[/sharequote]

"Certainly nothing we've ever seen here," he added.

Dubbed the "Bourbon virus," — its only victim lived in Bourbon County, Kansas — the new virus is thought to be carried by ticks, Hawkinson said.

Fever, anorexia and muscle aches can be symptoms of the virus, the infectious disease expert added.

The "Bourbon virus" is thought to be tick-borne. (Image source: Flickr/RobandSheila) The "Bourbon virus" is thought to be tick-borne. (Image source: Flickr/RobandSheila)

The Kansas health department said testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the patient had a virus not previously identified. Health department spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow said it's still not clear how much the Bourbon virus contributed to the patient's death.

"This was the first known instance and the only confirmed case," Rosenow said. "This is a new virus, and we are still learning."

[sharequote align="center"]"This was the first known instance and the only confirmed case."[/sharequote]

The health department declined to identify the victim of the virus or provide details about the case, saying it was protecting the privacy of the patient and family members.

The department said there's no specific vaccine or treatment for the disease from the Bourbon virus but described the risk as "minimal" during the winter, given health officials' belief that it is transmitted through tick or insect bites.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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