Bourbon Virus

Bourbon virus facts

Bourbon virus facts written by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

  • Bourbon viruses are members of the Thogotovirus genus of RNA viruses found worldwide. Some may cause illness and rarely death.
  • People acquire infections with the virus when it transfers during a tick bite or possibly other insects.
  • As of 2018, there have been very few infections in the Midwest and southern U.S.
  • Individuals may show symptoms that include fever, tiredness, rash, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Risk factors include tick bites (and possibly other insect bites according to some individuals) and not taking protective measures to avoid tick or insect bites.
  • Protective measures to prevent Bourbon virus infections include using tick and insect repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding bushy and wooded areas, and doing a body check for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Tests are under development. If you're concerned, contact your doctor.
  • There is no specific treatment and no vaccine available for Bourbon virus disease.

What is Bourbon virus?

Bourbon virus belongs to a group of viruses called thogotoviruses. Viruses in this group are found all over the world. A few of these viruses can cause people to get sick.

How do people get infected with Bourbon virus?

We do not yet fully know how people become infected with Bourbon virus. However, based on what we know about similar viruses, it is likely that Bourbon virus is spread through tick or other insect bites.

Where have cases of Bourbon virus disease occurred?

As of June 2018, a limited number of Bourbon virus disease cases have been identified in the Midwest and southern United States. At this time, we do not know if the virus might be found in other areas of the United States.

What are the symptoms of Bourbon virus?

Because there have been few cases identified thus far, scientists are still learning about possible symptoms caused by this new virus. People diagnosed with Bourbon virus disease had symptoms including fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea, and vomiting. They also had low blood counts for cells that fight infection and help prevent bleeding.

Who is at risk for infection with Bourbon virus?

People likely become infected with Bourbon virus when they are bitten by a tick or other insect. Therefore, people who do not take steps to protect themselves from tick or insect bites when they work or spend time outside may be more likely to be infected.

How can people reduce the chance of becoming infected with Bourbon virus?

There is no vaccine or drug to prevent or treat Bourbon virus disease. Therefore, preventing bites from ticks and other insects may be the best way to prevent infection. Here are ways to protect yourself from tick and other bug bites when you are outdoors:

  • Use insect repellents
  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Avoid bushy and wooded areas
  • Perform thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors

How do I know if I have been infected with Bourbon virus?

Tests that will help a doctor diagnose Bourbon virus infection are currently under development. See your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms that concern you.

What is the treatment for Bourbon virus disease?

Because there is no medicine to treat Bourbon virus disease, doctors can only treat the symptoms. For example, some patients may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and treatment for pain and fever. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, including Bourbon virus.

What should I do if I think someone might be infected with Bourbon virus?

See your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms that concern you.

Can Bourbon virus cause animals to become ill?

Scientists do not yet know what animals can get infected or become sick from Bourbon virus. Studies are ongoing to look at this. See your veterinarian if your pet or livestock have any symptoms that concern you.

Infected ticks can transmit Bourbon virus.

Tick Prevention Tips

  • Avoid shrubs and areas with tall grasses where ticks may be lying in wait to tag a ride on a potential "meal."
  • Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off. Tuck pants into boots or socks.
  • Apply insect repellent, specifically the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Bourbon Virus." Jan. 24, 2019. <>.