A potentially deadly tick-borne disease has been identified for the first time this year in Connecticut.
The Department of Public Health announced today, May 4, that a 50-59-year-old Windham man fell ill in the first week of March, and lab tests confirmed that he had the Powasan virus (POWV), which is usually spread by black feet. The deer ticks patient was hospitalized with a central nervous system disease and has since returned home.
A Maine man died at POMV last month. Two of the 12 cases in Connecticut since 2017 were fatal.
DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, said, “The identification of Connecticut residents with Pawasan virus-related illnesses emphasizes the need to take steps to prevent tick bites from now on.” “Using insect repellent, avoiding areas where there is a risk of ticks, and carefully checking for ticks after you are out can reduce your or your child’s chances of contracting the virus.”
Most people with POMV do not have symptoms or are mild, but some can develop serious illness by affecting the central nervous system, including fever, vomiting, headache, weakness, difficulty speaking, or convulsions.
Health officials are urging people to take standard precautions for Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
The most important way to prevent tick-borne illness is to check yourself and your pet for ticks when you come in from the outside, says William Hargan, MD, MBA, Backas and Medical Director of Quality and Safety at Windham Hospital.
He added that now is the time to pay attention because there are three times a year when ticks are most common – in late April and early May when adult, black-footed ticks come out; Juvenile ticks become active in late June and early July; And adults again in late October and early November.
“There is no cure for POMV, but people should not panic,” said Ulysses U, MD, chief epidemiologist and medical director of infectious diseases at Hartford Health Care. Dr. Wu said people should take the same precautions for Lyme disease, including wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, using repellents and getting regular tick checks on themselves and your pets.
For more information on tick bite prevention, click here.