(WTNH) – The state Department of Public Health announced the year’s first fatal case of Powassan virus (POWV) in Connecticut Tuesday. It marks the second case of POWV-associated illness identified in the state in 2022.
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the woman, who was between the ages of 90 and 99, lived in New London County and became sick in early May.
DPH said she was admitted to a local hospital with fever, altered mental status, headache, chills, rigors, chest pain, and nausea. According to DPH, her condition worsened and she became unresponsive over the following two weeks.
She died on May 17. DPH said she did have a known tick bite that was removed two weeks prior to the onset of symptoms, adding lab tests performed at a CDC lab in Colorado confirmed the presence of antibodies to POWV.
The first person diagnosed with POWV this year was a man between the ages of 50 to 59 who lived in Windham County. DPH said he became ill in late March, was hospitalized with a central nervous system disease, and had a known tick bite. He was discharged from the hospital and recovered at home.
DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani said POWV is usually spread through the bite of an infected black-legged or deer tick. It takes a week to one month after a bite from an infected tick to develop POWV symptoms and the virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes after the tick first attaches, according to DPH.
“This incident reminds us that residents need to take actions to prevent tick bites now through the late fall,” Juthani said. “DPH stresses the use of insect repellent this summer and avoiding high-risk areas, such as tall grass, where ticks may be found. It’s also important to check carefully for ticks after being outside which can reduce the chance of you and your family members being infected with this dangerous virus.”
DPH offers the following tips for preventing tick bites:
- Avoid areas where ticks are likely to be, such as grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks are most active from spring to fall but may also be active on warmer days during winter.
- Consider the use of CDC-recommended mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanoate, and apply according to directions, when outdoors.
- Check yourself and your children for ticks immediately after coming indoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors may be effective in reducing the risk of tick-borne disease.
- Examine clothing, gear, and pets carefully after coming indoors. Tumble dry clothing for 10 minutes to kill ticks that were carried inside.
- Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog.
- Consider treating items such as boots, clothing, and hiking or camping gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.
According to DPH, 12 cases of POWV-associated illness were reported in the state from 2017 to 2021, including three in 2021. Of those cases between 2017 and 2021, two were fatal.
For more information on the Powassan virus, click here.