Heard of the Heartland virus? Researchers say relatively new virus found in ticks may be in Florida

Lone Star Ticks carrying Heartland virus (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Spring is here, and more people are getting outside and enjoying the weather, but a new study finds ticks in Georgia are now carrying the Heartland virus, and it’s important to know what to look for.

Researchers also say there’s a chance the virus could already be in Florida.

The Heartland virus, which is carried and passed on by the Lone Star tick, is still relatively new.

The Lone Star tick can be identified by the single light-colored dot on its back and researchers now say ticks carrying the Heartland virus have been spotted in Georgia.

According to the CDC, more than 50 cases of the virus have been identified in people from 11 states since it was first discovered in 2009. But that number is thought to be higher.

With this discovery in Georgia, medical experts say people in Florida should be aware it exists especially since the most active months for ticks are March through September.

Symptoms for the Heartland virus include fever, headache, tiredness, muscle aches, loss of appetite, diarrhea and nausea.

People are advised to use bug spray that contains DEET. There are some other tips:

  • Do your best to avoid wooded areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • If you go through a trail, walk in the center
  • And after coming indoors, check your clothes and body for ticks

Ticks can typically be found:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around ears and hair
  • Inside belly button
  • On the back of the knees

Ticks can also be found on pets, who can transfer them to bedding and other items once indoors. That’s why it’s important to also check your fur babies.

Another good thing to do is to shower soon after being outdoors.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.