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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Maine health officials confirm first Powassan virus death, case this year

Health officials in Maine have reported the first identified Powassan virus case and death this year. 

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the fatal case in a Sagadahoc County resident. 

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that the deceased adult had developed neurologic symptoms. 

They died in the hospital after becoming infected. 

Two people who contracted the illness died, making this the third recorded Powassan death in the state since 2015. 

Notably, people contract the virus through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick. 

While ticks can be active whenever the temperature is above freezing, they are most active in the spring, summer and fall seasons.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures or memory loss, and some people may experience serious neurologic problems, like brain or spinal cord inflammation. 

About 10% of those with severe disease die. 

Tick sign in woods

A sign warns of ticks in the woods. (iStock)

Ticks live in wooded, leafy and shrubby areas, and deer ticks have been found in all 16 counties of Maine. 

Make sure to take precautions in areas where ticks may live, including wearing light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs, tucking pants into socks, using an EPA-approved repellent and checking for ticks daily and after any outdoor activity. 

Officials also recommend people remove their clothing when they return home and put them in the dryer before washing, using high heat for 10-15 minutes to kill any crawling ticks.

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