Connecticut woman dies after being infected with tickborne Powassan virus

A Connecticut woman has died after becoming infected with the tickborne Powassan virus, state health officials announced this week.

The state Department of Public Health reported that the woman, who was in her 90s, lived New London County and became sick in early May. She died May 17. She is the second person in Connecticut to test positive for the virus this year and the first to die.

“This incident reminds us that residents need to take actions to prevent tick bites now through the late fall,” DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani said Tuesday in a 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.”

Cases of the virus are rare in the United States. About 25 cases have been reported each year since 2015.

Between 2017 to 2021, 12 people became ill and two died from Powassan virus in Connecticut.

Humans become infected with Powassan through the bite of an infected deer or woodchuck tick.

Many do not get sick. But those who do can experience fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, or memory loss. Severe disease includes neurologic problems, including brain or spinal cord inflammation.

Health Department officials said the woman who died had a known tick bite which was removed two weeks before experiencing symptoms.

State officials said the first patient diagnosed with the virus this year was a man in his 50s who became ill in March. The man was hospitalized with a central nervous system disease and had a known tick bite. He was later discharged from the hospital and recovered at home. 

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