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Deadly New Tick-Borne Illness ‘The Heartland Virus’ Is On The Rise

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CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — The weather is warming up, but you may want to keep your long sleeves handy.

As CBS 2’s Diane Macedo reported, a deadly new disease known as the ‘Heartland Virus’ is on the rise and a very common tick carries it.

Outdoorsman and family lawn business owner Johnny Mitzner was bitten by a tick in May, less than a week later he was hospitalized, and he eventually died.

“What happened to him was probably one of the most destructive things I’ve seen as far as a sickness goes,” Mitzner’s son Mark said.

The 76-year-old was infected with the rare and relatively unknown ‘Heartland Virus.’

“It may be just one or two cases and nothing else, or it may be the start of something,” Dr. Cedric Spak, Baylor Medical Center Dallas, said.

The Lone Star Tick is common from Texas to the Midwest and all the way up the east coast. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention said that at least ten people have been infected. Two people have died.

“The patient may have fatigue, fever, they may have joint pain,” Dr. Spak said.

Some outdoor areas are more risky than others.

“You’re going to encounter these ticks when you’re outside, not just in a backyard, but more in a natural environment, a place where you have shrubs and wildlife,” Dr. Mike Merchant, Texas Agrilife Research, explained.

When venturing into those areas, experts suggest using bug repellent, avoiding high grass, and wearing long sleeves, and tucking your pants into your socks.

“Be very vigilant. don’t be complacent about anything crawling on your body. You might get a tick bite, ‘well it’s okay, I get them all the time,’ no, no more, not for me,” Mitzner said.

It’s also important to check yourself and your pets for ticks after being outside.

There is no vaccine or drug that prevents or treats the virus and there is no way to test for it. The CDC said that tests are being developed and that therapy can treat some symptoms.

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