KDHE Reports Surge in Tickborne Diseases and Early West Nile Virus Cases in Kansas

By Trish Svoboda

As of May 29, 2024, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) received over 200 laboratory reports of tickborne diseases. The high volume of tick bites and complaints received by KDHE indicate an increase in tick density as well as activity occurring earlier in the season than usual.

Several tickborne diseases caused by bacteria can be found in Kansas including Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, other Spotted Fever Group Rickettsioses (SFGR), and Tularemia. In addition, two rare tickborne viruses, Heartland virus and Bourbon virus, have been identified in Kansas in both humans and ticks. All these diseases are transmitted by the Lone Star tick, the most abundant tick in Kansas. Lone Star ticks are widespread throughout at least the eastern two-thirds of the state, thriving in various habitats, and are known for their aggressive biting of humans.

This year, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has investigated several cases of tickborne diseases with severe health outcomes, including hospitalizations from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia, and a fatal case of Bourbon virus.

In addition to tickborne diseases reported to KDHE, there has also been an uptick in cases of West Nile Virus (WNV), which is a reportable disease. Although WNV cases occur annually in Kansas, the concerning trend this year is their unusually early appearance. Typically, WNV cases begin in late July to early August, but KDHE has already received reports of two cases this year.

To find out more, visit KDHE’s Tickborne Disease Data Stories.

CDC also has additional information about vector-borne diseases on its website.

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