Maine CDC confirms fatal case of Powassan virus in Waldo County

April 20, 2022

Rare illness spread by bite of infected ticks

AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has confirmed a fatal case of Powassan virus infection in a Waldo County resident. The adult developed neurologic symptoms and died while in the hospital. This person likely became infected in Maine.

Cases of Powassan virus are rare in the United States, with about 25 cases reported each year since 2015. Maine has identified 14 cases since 2010. Humans become infected with Powassan through the bite of an infected deer or woodchuck tick.

“Ticks are active and looking for a host to bite right now,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “I urge Maine people and visitors to take steps that prevent tick bites.”

Symptoms of Powassan virus infection usually start one week to one month after the tick bite. People who get sick may have fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, or memory loss. Some may experience serious neurologic problems, such as brain or spinal cord inflammation. Severe infection may result in death. Many people infected with Powassan virus do not get sick.

There is no specific treatment available for this disease. If you experience these symptoms, call a health care provider as soon as you can.

The best protection against all tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites. Use these strategies to prevent tick bites:

  • Know what tick habitat is — wooded and bushy areas with tall grass — and use caution in areas where ticks may live.
  • Avoid these areas and stay in the middle of trails whenever possible.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent on skin. Use Permethrin on clothing for added protection.
  • Perform tick checks every day, and especially after leaving tick habitat and after returning home. Bathe or shower after coming inside to wash crawling ticks off your body. Also examine clothing, gear, and pets.
  • Ask a veterinarian about tick bite prevention for cats and dogs.

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To clarify:


Coppe Lab out of Wisconsin emphatically states Powassan is NOT rare:  Please read the following excerpt by Coppe Lab here in Wisconsin,

For the last two years, Coppe Laboratories has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to dispelling the myth that infection with Powassan virus, a virus transmitted by tick bite, is rare. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports only 100 cases of Powassan virus infection in the United States in the last 10 years. Indeed, that statistic gives the illusion that Powassan infection is rare. However, did you know that the only infections reported to CDC are those that are life-threatening, particularly cases causing severe inflammation of the brain like the case reported in LiveScience? Coppe has published three new papers in the last year that clearly show Powassan virus infection is not rare are at all, and until testing for this virus is included as part of tick-borne disease screening panels infections will continue to be underreported. Coppe’s Powassan Guide, which can be downloaded from the website, summarizes the findings from both tick and human Powassan prevalence studies, as well as defining the patient populations that would benefit most from Powassan testing.

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