The state of Connecticut witnessed its very first person succumbing to Powassan virus, which comes across as a tick-borne ailment. This information came from the state Department of Public Health on Tuesday.
The person/patient mentioned above was a lady in her late twilight years (in her 90s). She stayed in New London County. She was taken ill in the first week of May and admitted to a hospital in the vicinity citing fever, chills, altered mental status, chest pain, rigors, and nausea. Her condition di worsen day after day, which ultimately resulted in she not responding to any of the courses of treatment. The DPH issued a press release which stated that she passed away on May 17.
The state health agency had also affirmed that the deceased woman was known to have had a tick bite. However, it further stated that this tick bite was removed 2 weeks prior to she showing symptoms. CDC released data obtained from laboratory tests, which did confirm presence of antibodies against Powassan virus.
Not the First Victim?
DPH has also gone on records to mention that the women highlighted above was the 2nd known positive case regarding Powassan virus this year. Yes! You read it right! This wasn’t the first case diagnosed with Powassan Virus. The first one was the one from Windham County. He was in his 50s, who had taken ill in the last week of March. Apart from a known tick bite, he had contracted disease related to central nervous system. However, he had recovered completely and was discharged from hospital.
As per further details released by DPH, 12 cases of Powassan Virus were reported between 2017 and 2021, out of which 2 proved to be fatal.
Powassan virus is generally spread through an infected deer biting. Post-bite, it takes 7 to 30 days for the symptoms to develop. This virus could be transmitted within 15 minutes after the very first attack by the tick.
Be “Preventive” rather than “Curative”
The catch over here is that majority of the ones suffering from Powassan virus don’t experience symptoms at all. They could, at the most, have flu-like ailment. Severe illness could surface after the central nervous system getting affected. Around 10% of these severe cases could prove to be deadly, and close to 50% of the survivors do encounter long-term health problems. These severe cases could start with vomiting, fever, weakness or headache. The symptoms could speedily progress to loss of co-ordination, confusion, seizures, or difficulty in speaking, as asserted by the DPH.
The sad part is that there isn’t any specific treatment or vaccine for illnesses associated with Powassan virus, though supportive therapy is employed at the moment, which is inclusive of respiratory support and hydration, and hospitalization.
With late fall coming up, the residents need to be take extra-precautionary measures to keep tick bites at bay – as suggested by Manisha Juthani, DPH commissioner. On these grounds, use of insect repellents is being advised, along with averting the high risk areas like tall grass (the home of ticks).
So, as of now, the dictum to be followed is “Forewarned is Forearned”.