An extremely rare tick-borne brain swelling virus that killed a Hudson Valley resident has returned.

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Late last week, the Connecticut Department of Public Health confirmed two Connecticut residents tested positive for Powassen virus.

Health officials add both are between the ages of 50 and 79 and are from Fairfield and New Haven counties. 10 cases of Powassen virus were confirmed in Connecticut between 2016-2020, two of the infections were fatal, according to health officials.

These are the first two cases of Powassen in Connecticut, or near New York, in 2021.

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The Powassan virus is spread by the same deer tick that carries Lyme disease. Powassan, which in some cases has been fatal, attacks the nervous system and can cause dangerous brain swelling.

There is currently no treatment for the virus, which according to the CDC kills around 10 percent of people who become sick. Half are left with permanent neurological problems.

In July 2019, an Ulster County resident passed away from the Powassan virus, a rare and often serious disease spread by infected ticks.

The Gardiner resident had additional underlying health conditions, according to the Ulster County Department of Health.

Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.

People with severe cases of the virus often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain, according to the CDC.

You can reduce your risk of being infected by taking the following precautions:

    • Use of insect repellents containing DEET for skin applications and Permethrin for clothing and shoes.
    • Wearing long sleeves and pants
    • Avoiding bushy and wooded areas
    • Thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors.
    • Staying on clear well-traveled paths.
    • Wearing light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
    • Tucking pants into socks.
    • 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.

There are no vaccines to prevent or medicines to treat Powassan virus infection. People with severe Powassan virus disease often need to be hospitalized to receive support with breathing and swelling in and around the brain.

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