Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis

(WFSB) – The Connecticut Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday that two residents have tested positive for Powassan virus infection.

These are the first two cases of POWV identified in the state in 2021.

The virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected tick black-legged or “deer” tick. DPH says it takes one week to one month after the bite of an infected tick to develop symptoms.

DPH says while most people will likely experience no symptoms or mild flu-like illness, some people will develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system. Severe cases may begin with fever, vomiting, headache, or weakness and rapidly growing confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures.

"Powassan virus has been around for some time. Typically seen in Canada, but the ticks have made their way down tot he United States in the past decade or so and a few decades and mostly seen in the north central region of the United States, so out in Minnesota, Wisconsin. And here in the northeast, it was typically seen in Maine, but obviously the spread of ticks, it's making its way down," said Dr. Ulysses Wu. 

Dr. Ulysses Wu says between 2016 and 2020, there were 10 cases reported in Connecticut and two people died. 

The two people in Connecticut who tested positive are between the ages of 50 and 79 and both became ill during the third week of April.

Laboratory tests confirmed the presence of antibodies for POWV and both were hospitalized with central nervous system disease.

Both patients were discharged from the hospital and are recovering.

DPH said the patients reside in Fairfield and Hew Haven counties.

"The identification of two Connecticut residents with Powassan virus associated illness emphasizes the need to take actions to prevent tick bites while ticks are most active, from now through the late fall." said DPH Acting Commissioner Deidra S. Gifford, MD, MPH. "Using insect repellent, avoiding areas where ticks are likely, and checking carefully for ticks after being outside can reduce the chance of you or your children being infected with this virus."

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