DPH: Woman from New London County dies after testing positive for Powassan Virus

(WFSB) – A woman is dead after testing positive for Powassan virus (POWV) in Connecticut.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) said this is the second case of the virus identified in Connecticut so far this year.

The virus is spread through tick bites, health officials said.

Officials said this second case of the virus is the first fatality from Powassan this year in Connecticut.

The patient was between the ages of 90 and 99 and lived in New London County.

DPH said she became sick in early May.

“The patient was admitted to a local hospital with fever, altered mental status, headache, chills, rigors, chest pain and nausea,” health officials said.

DPH said her condition got worse and she became unresponsive over the next two weeks.

She had a known tick bite that was removed two weeks before symptoms.

“This incident reminds us that residents need to take actions to prevent tick bites now through the late fall,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD.

The first patient diagnosed with Powassan earlier this year was hospitalized with a central nervous system disease, officials said.

DPH said the patient, a male between the ages of 50 and 59 from Windham County, was discharged from the hospital. He then recovered at home.

Juthani said Powassan is usually spread through the bite of a black-legged or deer tick.

“It takes a week to one month after the bite from an infected tick to develop symptoms of POWV disease, and the virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes after the tick first attaches,” DPH said.

Health officials said most people who get Powassan will suffer from no symptoms, or a mild illness like the flu.

Some people will develop a severe illness to the central nervous system, officials said.

About one out of 10 cases of this severe illness are fatal.

“Severe cases may begin with fever, vomiting, headache, or weakness and rapidly progress to confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures,” DPH said. “There is no vaccine nor a specific treatment for POWV associated illness.”

DPH shared tips for preventing tick bites:

  • Avoid areas where ticks are likely to be, such as in in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks are most active from spring to fall but may also be active on warmer days during winter.
  • Consider the use of CDC-recommended mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanone, and apply according to directions, when outdoors.
  • Check yourself and your children for ticks immediately after coming indoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors may be effective in reducing the risk of tick-borne disease.
  • Examine clothing, gear, and pets carefully after coming indoors. Tumble dry clothing for 10 minutes to kill ticks that were carried inside.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog.
  • Consider treating items such as boots, clothing, and hiking or camping gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin

For more information on Powassan virus, click here.

Follow Channel 3 for updates.

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