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The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner—the first Saturday in May. I am gripped with fear. I won’t lose sleep over another losing Derby bet, but I’ve just read in the past few weeks that Bourbon disease could rear its ugly head.  I hope not, but who knows? This is not some virulent strain of cocktail flu.

Center for Disease Control photo

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Bourbon virus is a novel RNA virus in the genus Thogotovirus (family Orthomyxoviridae) that was recently discovered in Bourbon County, Kansas.” There has been only one case reported, that of a previously healthy male over 50 years of age who had onset of symptoms during late spring 2014. The patient had reported exposure to ticks before becoming ill. He went to doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital last summer with symptoms consistent with most tick-borne illnesses, including high fever, severe headache, muscle aches and nausea.

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Believe me, I’ve had my share of bad hangovers, but this could be worse.

I might have one Mint Julep over the Derby weekend, but it will be ceremonial. It’s not my Bourbon preference. (Churchill Downs expects to sell over 120,000 Mint Juleps over two days of racing during Derby weekend.) My Bourbon choice is Old Forrester on the rocks.

I am delighted, as a homegrown Kentuckian, with the surging popularity of Kentucky Bourbon. I hope many of you will visit distilleries along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.

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No one knows where the Bourbon disease is going.  But no one wants another tick-borne disease. Lyme Disease is bad enough.

Ticks shouldn’t be a problem, unless you get off the trail.

The Bourbon virus has proven deadly—one time, so far.

The CDC advised: “As of February 12, 2015, only one case of Bourbon virus disease had been identified in eastern Kansas in late spring 2014. The man who was infected later died. At this time, we do not know if the virus might be found in other areas of the United States.”

It’s tick season.

Hang onto your Derby hats.

Posted by

Allen Bush
on April 9, 2015 at 7:57 am, in the category Science Says, What’s Happening.


  1. Here in the Carolinas, we skip the bourbon and go for the dessert version: if you make the mint julep with Mystic bourbon liqueur, you’re in for a treat — sweet and ginger-spicy. Or if that’s still too close to home, milkshake it, baby!

  2. After contracting Lyme disease and spending many grueling months finding out how to recover, I had to crack down on the tick population and the simplest way was simply to mow my lawn my regularly. It sounds very obvious but I found that even a couples of inches of growth had a big impact.

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