The Maine CDC says a Maine resident has died of Powassan Virus, an illness transmitted through a tick bite.

Is Powassan Virus Common?

Of the tick-borne illnesses, Powassan is definitely one of the most serious. But it's also fairly rare. There have been about 25 cases reported each year since 2015 across the entire country. The Maine CDC reports there have been 15 cases in the state since 2015, including four in 2022. Two of the Maine residents who contracted the virus died, making this latest case the third recorded Powassan death in the state since 2015.

Health officials say the latest victim was an adult who lived in Sagadahoc County. No further information about age, sex, or town was released. They did say that this is the first case of Powassan Virus reported in the state this year.

What Are the Symptoms?

Powassan Virus is spread through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick. Many people who contract the virus have no symptoms at all. But, for those who do have symptoms, they can be severe with people felling unwell anywhere from a week to a month after infection.

People with the virus could experience any of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Memory Loss
  • Neurological problems, like brain or spinal cord inflammation (in rare cases)

About 10% of people who experience the severe symptoms die, including the Maine resident from Sagadahoc County. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms after a tick bite should call a health provider as soon as possible.

Can I Avoid Getting It?

Residents are encouraged to take precautions against ticks, including using an EPA-approved repellant like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on their skin, as well as permethrin on their clothing whenever they're going to spend time outdoors. People should check for ticks daily and after any outdoor activity, as well as checking family members and pets. And if you've been outside for a while, health officials advise putting your clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes to kill any ticks that may be present.

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