Connecticut reports its first case of tick-borne Powassan virus in 2022: what to know

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The Connecticut Department of Public Health last Wednesday announced the state’s first Powassan virus infection of the year. Powassan virus is a rare disease spread by the same tick that causes Lyme disease, according to a recent press release.

“The identification of a Connecticut resident with a disease associated with the Powassan virus highlights the need for action to prevent tick bites between now and the end of the fall,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani. , who is the commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Health.

“Using insect repellent, avoiding areas where there are chances of ticks, and carefully checking for ticks after being out can reduce the chance that you or your children will be infected with the virus.”

The Powassan virus, first discovered in Powassan, Ontario in 1958, is usually transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with black-legged deer or deer, officially known as Ixodes scapularis, and can be transmitted in only 15 minutes after a tick bite, but it can take a week to a month to develop symptoms, depending on the release.

This contrasts with Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the United States, which is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi and is usually transmitted between 36 and 48 hours after the black-legged tick bite. . at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Human infections secondary to Powassan virus infections have been recognized in the United States, Canada, and Russia, with cases mostly in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region in late spring, early summer, and mid-summer. fall, when ticks are most active, by the CDC.

Between 2011 and 2020, in addition to Connecticut, the following states have reported cases to the CDC: Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

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Powassan cases are rare, with 20 reported in 2020 to the CDC, but reported cases are increasing, while the CDC typically reports 30,000 cases of Lyme disease each year, but the actual number is likely to approach 476,000 each year because of under-reporting, according to the agency.

People who work outdoors and engage in recreational activities in areas endemic to the virus have a higher risk of infection.

The Connecticut patient who contracted Powassan virus is a 50-year-old male patient who began to feel sick during the fourth week of March after a tick bite. He was later hospitalized with central nervous system disease with laboratory-confirmed tests by the CDC for antibodies to the virus, but is now discharged and is recovering at home, according to the health department statement.

Most people infected with Powassan virus will develop mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms, but some will suffer from a serious illness that will affect the central nervous system, which consists of the spinal cord and brain. health department.

Early symptoms of serious illness include headache, vomiting, fever, and rapidly progressing to confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures. Treatment is a supportive care, which means that there is no specific medication aimed at the disease, but it is aimed at the symptoms.

About one in 10 cases of serious illness is fatal, with an estimated half of survivors suffering from long-term complications.

There were 12 cases of Powassan virus from 2017 to 2021 reported in Connecticut, including three in 2021 and two of the 12 that were fatal, according to the statement.

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Connecticut is a state known for tick bites, and the CDC has classified it as a high-incidence region for Lyme disease, starting in 2019.

Lyme disease was first described in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 by a researcher, Dr. William Burgdorfer, who linked baffling symptoms to rheumatoid arthritis-like symptoms with deer tick bites. the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

He discovered that a spiral-shaped bacterium, known as spirochete, carried by ticks caused the disease now known as Lyme disease. The spirochete was named Borrelia burgdorferi in 1982 in her honor, according to the NIH.

An early symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash that looks like a “bull’s eye,” known as migratory erythema, but which can later progress to joint pain and neurological problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Black-legged ticks can not only carry Lyme disease and Powassan virus, but also other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis, so it is possible to become infected with more than one infection at a time, called coinfection, according to the CDC.

Some tips to prevent tick bites include: Avoid grassy, ​​bushy, wooded areas, use CDC-recommended mosquito repellents, check for ticks immediately after an outdoor activity, and shower indoors. two hours after entering the interior, according to the statement.

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