A Maine resident has been sickened with a rare tick-borne virus that can cause brain infections and, in some cases, death.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday confirmed that a person living in southern Maine became infected with the Powassan virus in June and was hospitalized. The agency did not release additional details about the Mainer infected with the virus.
Powassan virus is transmitted by the woodchuck tick and the deer tick, and symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss, the disease control center said in a health advisory. About half of people who recover from the virus suffer long-term health problems, including recurring headaches, memory problems and weakness.
“There is no specific treatment, but people with severe Powassan virus often need to be hospitalized,” the health advisory reads.
The virus was discovered in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario. It is very rare, with an average of seven cases reported in the U.S. each year, according to the disease control center.
In Maine, there have been 11 cases of Powassan infection since 2000, most recently in 2017 when three people were stricken with the virus. By far, the most common tick-borne illnesses in Maine are Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, with about 1,400 and 470 cases, respectively, reported in 2018, according to the Maine disease control center.
Powasson virus causes death in about 10 percent of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There has been at least one death from Powassan in Maine. In November 2013, Marilyn Ruth Snow, 73, of South Thomaston was bitten by a tick that infected her with the Powassan virus, the first case to be confirmed in Maine in nearly a decade. She died at a Portland hospital a month later.
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