June 10, 2023

A Maine resident from Sagadahoc County has died after contracting a uncommon tick-borne virus, authorities officers stated.

The incident represents the primary case of the virus within the state this 12 months, and the third recorded fatality since 2015.

The grownup affected person died in hospital after growing extreme neurological signs, the Maine Middle for Illness Management and Prevention (Maine CDC) confirmed on Might 17, days after issuing a public well being advisory on tick-borne illnesses.

A file picture of a tick on an individual’s pores and skin, about to chunk. Ticks can carry a spread of various illnesses, together with Lyme illness and the Powassan virus.
Maine resident dies after catching uncommon tick-borne virus/Getty

Powassan virus illness is a tick-borne an infection that may infect the mind, the encompassing membranes and the spinal wire. In keeping with the CDC, the virus is primarily unfold by deer ticks (also referred to as black-legged ticks), though the squirrel tick and groundhog tick may additionally carry the illness.

Signs might embody fever, headache, vomiting, weak point, confusion, seizures and reminiscence loss. These might develop wherever between every week and a month after receiving the contaminated tick chunk. Nonetheless, not everybody who contracts the illness will develop signs.

Powassan virus illness is extraordinarily uncommon, with solely 202 instances, together with 24 deaths, reported to the CDC throughout the entire of the U.S. between 2012 and 2021. Nonetheless, instances have been rising in recent times, the CDC stated, and of the 15 recognized instances reported in Maine since 2015, 4 had been recorded in 2022 alone.

Nearly all of instances have been reported within the northeastern U.S. and Nice Lakes space. In 2004, there was just one case reported nationally, in Maine, the CDC figures present. The primary case in Wisconsin was reported in 2006, and by 2017 a case was reported as far west as North Dakota. Ticks grow to be contaminated with the illness after they feed on groundhogs, squirrels, mice and different rodents which have the virus of their blood. They’ll then unfold it to individuals and different animals by biting them.

The illness cannot be unfold from individual to individual, though anybody contaminated mustn’t donate blood or bone marrow for 120 days after the preliminary chunk, in accordance with the CDC.

Powassan virus may cause extreme illness—about one in 10 people with extreme signs die and roughly half of those that survive could have long-term well being issues, reminiscent of recurring complications, lack of muscle mass, and reminiscence issues. Nonetheless, solely a subset of those that contract the illness fall into the class of “extreme sickness.”

“Most people who find themselves contaminated don’t have any signs and totally get well,” Daniel Pastula, an affiliate professor of neurology, infectious illnesses and epidemiology on the College of Colorado college of Medication, beforehand instructed Newsweek. “A subset, inside one to 4 weeks develop a reasonably dangerous flu-like sickness. And a subset of these individuals develop Powassan neuroinvasive illness. That is the place we’re seeing the severity.”

Tick warning
A file picture of a warning sign up a wooded space. If you’re strolling outdoor, all the time verify your self for ticks and use insect repellent in your pores and skin and clothes.

There aren’t any vaccines or particular medicines to deal with or stop the unfold of this virus. Nonetheless, you may take measures to stop your self from being bitten within the first place.

To keep away from tick publicity, the Maine CDC recommends avoiding areas with shrubs or lengthy grass and utilizing an EPA-approved tick repellent, like DEET or picardin. Spray your garments with the insecticide permethrin and put on light-colored clothes that cowl your legs and arms, tucking your pants into your socks.

After any outside exercise, verify your self and your pets for ticks and put your clothes within the dryer on excessive warmth earlier than washing.

Replace 5/18/23, 6:30 a.m. ET: This text was up to date with further CDC figures.