Tamela Wilson was no stranger to tick bites. The 58-year-old assistant superintendent at Meramec State Park in Missouri had worked at a state park for more than a decade and would pick the bugs off her skin routinely, reports CBS News. But in late May, just four days after she plucked two off her body, she was so weak she couldn't pick up the phone. Antibiotics for a possible urinary tract infection did nothing, and doctors couldn't explain the rash spreading across her body. Soon, infectious disease specialists sent a blood sample to the CDC, which confirmed that hers was only the fifth confirmed case of the deadly Bourbon virus since it was first discovered in 2014.
Wilson's daughter, who happens to be a nurse, says all they could do was hope it would leave their mother's system. It didn't help that her mother had been treated for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since 2012; people over 50 who have chronic medical conditions are more likely to experience a serious illness when they catch a tick-borne disease, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wilson died June 23. As scary and deadly as emerging tick-borne illnesses can be, one doctor says this is an opportunity to remind people that "there are things we face every day that are much more of a problem." Just as thousands of Americans died of the flu during the 2014 Ebola scare, tens of thousands get Lyme disease from tick bites compared to just a handful of the more rare ones. (The Powassan virus has experts issuing dire warnings.)