Heartland Virus (HRTV) Infection is a tick-borne phlebovirus. Phleboviruses cause humans to get a flu-like illness and cause the levels of white blood cells in the blood to go low dramatically. They are passed through tick, sandfly, or mosquito bites.  The phlebovirus Bhanja virus causes heartland virus infection.

Dr. Scott Folk, a Heartland Regional Medical Center doctor, found out and reported the Heartland Virus in 2009. The virus was discovered in northwestern Missouri and was first proven to infect humans when two farmers, residing 60 miles apart, presented the same symptoms. The Lone Star Tick, a widespread tick in Missouri, has been discovered to cause the Heartland virus. The Lone Star tick becomes infected with Heartland virus when it sucks an infected animal’s blood.

So far, all known human cases of Heartland Virus are reported from five US states Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Most infections were reported between May to September.


The time from tick bite to feeling sick is still unclear, but most patients reported feeling the symptoms after two weeks after they were bitten. People who were diagnosed with Heartland virus infection have suffered symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling sick to their stomach
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

People with Heartland virus infection have lower levels of white blood cells and platelets in their blood. Tests also show that infected people have increased levels of liver enzymes.

Almost all of the infected patients have been hospitalized; most of them recovered, while a few died.


Currently, there are no tests routinely available to identify if a person is infected with the HRTV. Diagnosis is only through the process of elimination. Heartland virus infection symptoms are similar to that of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis; if the patient is not responding to the treatment for the diseases mentioned earlier, they may be suspected of Heartland virus infection.

Tests are still being developed, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are continuously working on learning more about the virus and finding out more about the transmission.


There are still no available vaccines or medication to prevent or cure Heartland virus infection. Healthcare providers might provide treatment focused on managing symptoms.

CDC recommends the following prevention, however, to prevent tick or mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellants correctly.
  • Wear long-sleeves and pants when outdoors so ticks can easily be seen and removed
  • Avoid common areas of ticks (bushy and wooded areas)
  • Check your body thoroughly to see if there are tick bites, especially when you have spent long hours in the woods.
  • If a tick is found, remove it by head using fine-tipped tweezers.

Treat your clothing and gear as well with insect repellant. Products with 0.5% permethrin are recommended. Apply permethrin onto your boots, clothing, and camping gears. Permethrin adheres tightly with the fabric that washing can only cause minimal loss. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear are also available in the market.

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