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Four Cases Of Powassan Virus Confirmed In Connecticut


State health officials in Connecticut have identified four cases of the Powassan virus.

The four residents tested positive for the tick-borne virus this year, according to a report made on Monday by the Department of Public Health.

Two of the patients were older than 60-year-old men from Middlesex and Litchfield counties. According to the DPH, they fell ill towards the start of July.

The other two cases were older than 50-year-old females. They fell ill in late July, and they were Litchfield and Windham County residents.

All of the patients had antibodies to Powassan, or POWV, according to laboratory testing conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Laboratory in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

According to the DPH, the individuals were hospitalized for a central nervous system disorder and claimed having been bitten by a tick. Since then, they were released and making a full recovery.

“The identification of four Connecticut residents with Powassan virus-associated illness emphasizes the importance of taking actions to protect yourself from tick bites from now through the late fall,” said DPH commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD.

“Using insect repellent, avoiding areas where ticks are likely, and checking carefully for ticks after being outside can reduce the chance of you or your children being infected with this virus.”

“In recent years we have been receiving a higher than usual number of ticks, and this year so far, the laboratory has received 4,616 tick submissions, including 3,089 blacklegged ticks, from state residents directly or through health departments and physicians’ offices, in comparison to 1,889 blacklegged ticks in 2022,” said Dr. Goudarz Molaei, a chief scientist who also directs the Connecticut Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen Surveillance Program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

“The persistent and expanding threat posed by blacklegged ticks, coupled with ongoing range expansion and establishment in new areas of invasive ticks, the Asian long horned tick, the Gulf Coast tick, and the lone star tick, and the confirmation of four Powassan virus disease cases in Connecticut residents, highlights the increasing public health challenges associated with ticks and tick-borne diseases.”

Six cases of POWV-related disease were documented in Connecticut between 2016 and 2022, according to the DPH. Last year, there were two illnesses that were fatal.

People can contract the Powassan virus by being bitten by an infected blacklegged or deer tick. POWV illness symptoms can appear one week to one month after being bitten by an infected tick, and the virus can spread in as little as 15 minutes after the tick initially attaches.

According to the DPH, illnesses linked to the Powassan virus have been reported from early spring to late fall.

While the majority of POWV patients probably experience no symptoms or a mild flu-like disease, a small number of patients will experience a serious condition that damages the central nervous system. According to the DPH, one in ten cases of a serious disease result in death, and half of those who survive have ongoing health issues.

In severe cases, symptoms such as a fever, nausea, headache, or weakness may appear first before quickly progressing to confusion, lack of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures.

For illnesses linked to POWV, there is neither a vaccine nor a specific treatment. Supportive therapy, which may include hospitalization, breathing assistance, and hydration, is used to treat severe sickness.

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