Connecticut Woman Dies From a Tick Bite That Gave Her Powassan Virus
This is the first death from the Powassan virus in the United States this year.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health revealed on June 7 that a woman in her 90s died last month after testing positive for the tick-borne Powassan virus illness (POWV). This is the state's second instance of Powassan virus this year, and the state's first POWV death.
The woman, who was unidentified in the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s press release, lived in New London County and become ill in late May. She was admitted to a local hospital with a fever, altered mental status, headache, chills, rigors, chest pain, and nausea. These symptoms came two weeks after the woman had a tick removed.
Antibodies against POWV were discovered in laboratory testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This incident reminds us that residents need to take actions to prevent tick bites now through the late fall," Dr. Manisha Juthani, DPH commissioner, said in the news release. "DPH stresses the use of insect repellent this summer and avoiding high-risk areas, such as tall grass, where ticks may be found. It's also important to check carefully for ticks after being outside which can reduce the chance of you and your family members being infected with this dangerous virus."
The virus typically spreads through a bite from an infected black-legged, or deer, tick according to Commission Juthani. Most people who get infected do not develop symptoms but in the rare cases that they do, they experience fevers, vomiting, headaches, or weakness and rapidly progress to confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures.
POWV-related sickness does not have a vaccination or a particular therapy. Supportive therapies, which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, and hydration, are used to treat severe sickness.
In the United States, cases of the virus are uncommon. Since 2015, about 25 instances have been documented per year. In Connecticut, 12 individuals were sick and two died from the Powassan virus between 2017 and 2021.
This year's first POWV patient was a Windham County resident in his 50s, who fell ill in late March. The patient had a known tick bite and was admitted to the hospital with a central nervous system disorder.
The patient was taken home after being released from the hospital.
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