ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Department of Health is investigating a possible case of the tick-borne Bourbon Virus in St. Louis County.
Bourbon Virus is rare. It was first identified just four years ago. There is no cure, and it can be deadly.
Kathy and Geoff Potter know just how serious it can be. Their daughter, Tamela Wilson, died from the virus a year ago.
"She lived in the middle of the woods of Meramec State Park and she wasn't afraid,” Kathy said.
Tammy was the park's assistant superintendent for a decade. Last June, she started feeling sick, and at first, no one knew what was wrong.
"Barnes Hospital had never seen a case of it,” Kathy said.
Doctors there did eventually figure out Tammy had the rare Bourbon Virus, caused by a tick bite.
Tammy spent 24 days in the hospital before she died. She was 58.
"To watch your daughter disintegrate like she did. It was almost like she was dead while she was alive,” Kathy said.
Reliving that experience isn't easy, but Tammy's parents are sharing her story because they want to protect others planning to spend time outside this summer.
"We don't want to discourage people from that, but just be aware that there is this virus and if you start to feel really tired, don't assume it's nothing because it could be something,” Kathy said.
State health officials suspect someone else in St. Louis County contracted the Bourbon virus this year, but that patient recovered. The CDC is doing final tests to confirm whether the infection was the Bourbon virus, and those results should be back in two to three weeks.
"They made it through, Thank God. I don't know why one person makes it through and one doesn't,” Kathy said.
She hopes no one suffers like her daughter did.
"I want her life to have some meaning so that other people won't have to go what we've gone through,” she said.
To protect yourself against ticks. wear long sleeves and pants, wear bug spray, and — if you're on a hike — the experts say stick to the middle of the trail. That's where the fewest ticks will be.