Tick Carrying Deadly Brain Swelling Virus Kills in Hudson Valley
A Hudson Valley resident died shortly after being diagnosed with an extremely rare tick-borne brain swelling virus.
On Wednesday, The Ulster County Department of Health was notified that an Ulster County resident passed away from the Powassan virus, a rare and often serious disease spread by infected ticks.
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 and passed away earlier this week, according to the Ulster County Department of Health.
“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," Dr. Carol M. Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health, said.
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.
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.
In 2017, the last year on record, there were 33 people diagnosed with the virus in the United States. 16 of those 33 live in New York, according to the CDC. Two people died from the virus.
In 2016, 21 people were diagnosed with the virus across the United States. Three died from the virus. In 2015, there were six cases of the Powassan virus.
In 2018, Hudson Valley Post reported on residents in Dutchess County and Columbia County who were diagnosed with the Powassan virus.
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.
Last month someone from New Jersey died after being bitten by a tick with the Powassan virus.
The Ulster County Commissioner of Health has been in communication with the New York State Department of Health which follows the reports of testing for tick-borne diseases and reports positive results to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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