So far, though, there are no medications to treat the three viral infections that can be contracted from ticks. Bourbon (named after the county in Kansas where it was first recognized), Powassan, and Heartland virus victims have to hope that their immune systems can fight those illnesses. Some victims don’t recover. Of the 30 cases of Heartland reported to the Centers for Disease Control, at least two were fatal. Doctors know little about it. Nor do they know much about the Powassan virus. Of the 98 reported cases of Powassan since 2007, 11 were fatal, and half of the survivors are left with permanent muscle loss, memory problems, and recurring headaches, according to the CDC.
So where are these new diseases coming from? They aren’t actually new, says CDC research scientist Dr. Rebecca Eisen.