Maine confirms first deadly case of rare Powassan virus this year

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 4:22 PM EDT
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SAGADAHOC, Maine (WMTW) - For just the third time since 2015, a person from Maine has died from the Powassan virus.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday afternoon that an adult from Sagadahoc County developed neurologic symptoms and died while in the hospital after becoming infected, likely in Maine.

This is the first case of the tickborne illness identified in the state this year.

Cases of Powassan are rare in the United States, with about 25 cases reported each year since 2015. Maine has identified 15 cases since 2015, including four in 2022. Two of the people who got Powassan in 2022 died.

Powassan virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick.

Many people infected with Powassan do not have symptoms; for those who develop symptoms, the time from tick bite to feeling unwell can range from one week to one month. Symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, or memory loss. Some people may experience serious neurologic problems, like brain or spinal cord inflammation.

About 10% of people with severe disease die. If you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite, call a health care provider as soon as possible.