“Every day she’d get worse:” Woman dies of tick-borne illness; just the 5th confirmed case since it was discovered

ST. LOUIS — A Missouri family is speaking out after a woman died in June while carrying a deadly, tick-borne illness known as the Bourbon Virus.

Tamela Wilson’s parents say doctors didn’t initially know to test for the disease. That could be, in part, due to the fact that the virus was only identified a few years ago, and not very many cases have been identified.

“You wouldn’t want this for your worst enemy,” Kathy Potter, Wilson’s stepmother said.

Wilson was the first person in Missouri to test positive for the tick-borne illness. The 58-year-old is the fifth confirmed case of the deadly disease since it was discovered in 2014.

“It makes you fearful about going outside,” Potter said.

Wilson lived and worked at Meramec State Park in Sullivan, Missouri.

The family said doctors were dumbfounded when, during her initial visit, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and given antibiotics.

“Every day we’d go to the hospital and she’d get worse. No improvement,” Geoff Potter said.

Wilson was eventually transferred to Barnes, but even they didn’t know what to do.

“The doctors were beside themselves. They said it’s a medical mystery,” Geoff Potter said.

Dr. Morey Gardner – St. Mary’s Hospital:

“We have no specific therapy for the virus,” Dr. Morey Gardner, director of the Infectious Diseases Center at St. Mary’s Hospital said.

Dr. Gardner recommended wearing bug repellent and regularly checking for ticks.

“It doesn’t mean not going outside, but it does mean being careful when you do go outside,” Gardner said.

As for the Potters, they said they’re warning everyone to be aware.

“It’s not something that any doctor will look for. you have to present it to them and by the time you find out it might be too late,” Kathy Potter said.

Wilson’s family said she donated her body to science, hopeful it would help doctors fight the Bourbon Virus.