While Lyme disease is the most common tick-transmitted disease, with 30,000 reported cases a year, ticks continue to be in the news because of the other viruses they transmit.
A Kansas man died last year from Bourbon virus, a new virus named after Bourbon County where he lived. He was a healthy man who died after only 10 days in the hospital. At this point it is not known for certain how he contracted the disease, but this kind of virus is usually transmitted by a bite from a tick or other insect. The Bourbon virus is similar to viruses found in other parts of the world, but nothing like it has been seen in this country before.
The Powassan virus occurs from Virginia up to Maine, and east to Minnesota. This is a tick-borne encephalitis virus that is low in numbers, but has been increasing in recent years.
The new Heartland virus infected two men in Missouri in 2009. While they fortunately recovered, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates that more people will become infected. The virus is transmitted by lone star ticks.
Finally, besides sometimes transmitting diseases, bites from some lone star ticks are causing another problem—making some people allergic to red meat. Unlike most food allergies, the symptoms, including vomiting, abdominal cramps, hives, and anaphylaxis, typically come three to six hours after an infected person eats red meat. The only good news is that the allergic reaction seems to fade after a few years if people avoid additional tick bites.