Oklahoma Health Department confirms heartland virus death

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) confirmed on Tuesday the state's first death from the heartland virus.

The Delaware County resident was the tenth person confirmed to have the disease and the second to die from it since the first case was reported in 2009 in Missouri. All confirmed heartland virus cases have been in Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

The virus is likely spread through bites from the Lone Star tick. All of the patients diagnosed with the disease were reported to have spent several hours outside every day.

Symptoms of the heartland virus include fatigue, fever, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea.

There is currently no regular testing for heartland virus or medicine to treat it. OSDH said preventing tick bites may prevent the disease, and encouraged healthcare providers to contact OSDH's Acute Disease Service for consultation regarding protocol enrollment for patients who have symptoms similar to the heartland virus.

OSDH also recommended that Oklahoma residents use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants when heading outdoors, avoid bushy and wooded areas and perform thorough tick checks after spending time outside.

Heartland belongs to the phlebovirus family of viruses, which are found around the world.

Other tick-borne illnesses include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Lyme disease and southern tick associated rash illness.