Tick-borne Powassan virus sickens two in midcoast Maine

7 years ago

Two residents of midcoast Maine are recovering from the Powassan virus, a rare but life-threatening illness spread by a tick bite.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a news release Wednesday that it was notified of the two cases last week. The two adults became ill in late April and were hospitalized with encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, caused by the virus. Both have since been discharged, the CDC said.

The cases were confirmed through testing at the U.S. CDC’s division in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Maine CDC did not release details about the individuals, including where in midcoast Maine they iwere infected or whether their cases were related.

The two infections bring Maine’s case count for Powassan to nine since 2000. The virus claimed the life of a Rockland-area artist in late 2013.

Powassan is only one of several diseases caused by ticks that are on the rise in Maine. Lyme disease, the most prevalent, rose to a record 1,464 cases last year. Anaplasmosis, a bacterial infection that can lead to similar long-term effects as Lyme without a proper diagnosis, climbed dramatically as well.

Powassan is spread by the bite of an infected deer or woodchuck tick and can cause fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion and seizures. Brain swelling is a potentially devastating complication that kills 10 percent of those who develop it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About half of those who survive the infection suffer permanent neurological symptoms such as memory problems, facial tics and blurred vision. There is no vaccine or treatment other than keeping patients comfortable and hydrated during hospitalization.

Many patients, on the other hand, experience no symptoms at all, according to the CDC.

The County is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Tick-borne Powassan virus sickens two in midcoast Maine,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Jackie Farwell, please follow this link to the BDN online.