By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Ulster County, NY health officials announced yesterday of a resident who passed away earlier this week from the Powassan virus, a rare and often serious disease spread by infected ticks.

With its abdomen engorged with a host blood meal, this image depicts a lateral, or side view of a female blacklegged, or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis/CDC

This is the first known case of an individual diagnosed with the Powassan virus in New York State this year. The resident, who lives in Gardiner, had additional underlying health conditions.

Dr. Carol M. Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health said, “It is imperative that all residents take every precaution necessary against tick-borne illnesses, especially during outdoor activities.  Residents should vigilantly check themselves and their pets for ticks and tick bites.”

Powassan virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Since this is a viral disease, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. The risk of getting Powassan is exceedingly low. Tens of thousands of people get tick bites every year, and typically, in New York State, anywhere from only 0-6 cases of Powassan infection are diagnosed each year.

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Symptoms of the Powassan virus include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and memory problems. If you or a family member has been bitten by a tick and are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.

The best way to avoid becoming ill with tick borne diseases is to take proper precautions when spending time outdoors. These include:

  • Staying on clear well-travelled paths.
  • Wearing light colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Tucking pants into socks.
  • Use of insect repellents containing DEET for skin applications and Permethrin for clothing and shoes.
  • Showering as soon as possible after spending time outdoors.
  • Checking everyone including pets frequently and at the end of each day, and removing all ticks promptly and properly.