Last year, scientists got the chance to solve a medical mystery — well, at least half of it. This week the final puzzle pieces fell into place, as investigators tracked the newly identified virus to an eight-legged bug.
The mystery actually began with two Missouri farmers who came down with a strange illness in 2009. They had high fevers, diarrhea and nausea. Their platelet counts dropped dramatically, though they didn’t experience any abnormal bleeding.
Doctors thought it was a bacterial infection. But antibiotics didn’t help. So a quick-thinking physician at Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo., sent the men’s blood to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When virologists looked at the samples under the microscope, they discovered a virus that no one had ever seen before. They named it the Heartland virus, in honor of its origin and the Midwest.