- A total of 11 cases of Powassan virus has come up in Maine in the last 19 years.
- A resident in Maine has been recently infected with the disease and has since been hospitalized.
Residents in Maine may be at risk for a new tick-borne illness, according to reports from the New York Post. The new reports show that a resident has already been infected with a virus that is believed to lead to brain infections, meningitis, and even death.
An announcement from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the unidentified resident showed evidence of being infected with human Powassan encephalitis disease. The resident appears to have been infected in late June, though there was no information of whether this resident has recovered.
The Powassan encephalitis disease also referred to as the Powassan virus, is part of a group of viruses that can infect the brain and the membranes surrounding both the brain and spinal cord. This virus typically is able to enter the bloodstream of humans after being bitten by an infected woodchuck or deer tick. The most at-risk individuals are those that live or work near woody and brushy areas.
The majority of cases involved in the Powassan virus have occurred near the Great Lakes and in the northeast region of the United States. As stated in the New York Post, the infected humans often “experience fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.” The CDC even stated that there’s a potential for “long-term neurologic problems.”
These symptoms can arise as soon as a week to a month after the tick bite, and there has yet to be a specific treatment. However, the CDC noted that anyone suffering from severe symptoms will most likely need to be hospitalized. The hospitalization allows them to get breathing support and reduce swelling in the brain, but there’s no medicine or protocol available for treatment. There isn’t even a vaccine to prevent it, which explains why 10% of cases ultimately result in death.
Luckily, this virus is rare, and there’s only an average of 7 cases reported each year in the United States. In Maine alone, a total of 11 cases have arisen since 2000, but this is the first time anyone in the state has been diagnosed with the illness.