Rare tick-borne virus kills resident of New York

Rare tick-borne virus kills resident of New York
Lyme disease -- Not everyone develops the telltale bullseye rash that forms around a tick bite that's developed into Lyme disease. Other symptoms like fatigue, headaches, joint pain and flu-like symptoms can be confused for something else. Blood tests often take weeks and are notoriously unreliable.

A rare virus spread by ticks has caused a fatality in New York, health officials in Ulster County said Thursday.

A resident of Gardiner, New York, became the first diagnosis of Powassan virus in the state this year. The victim of the virus did have an underlying condition, the health department said.

Though rare, the virus — which cannot be treated with antibiotics — is often serious, according to the Ulster County Health Department.

Authorities in Ulster County are urging residents to be on alert for ticks that could carry Powassan.

“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 in a statement.

Smith also recommended people spending time outside should wear light-colored clothing, stick to well-traveled path and use insect repellents containing DEET.

Spread by infected deer ticks, Powassan virus can cause fever, headache, vomiting, loss of coordination and memory and speech problems, however it often does not present with any symptoms, according to the CDC.

It can also cause encephalitis and meningitis, according to the CDC.

Those who have been bitten and experience any of the common symptoms should consult a doctor, Smith said.

In 2018, states reported 21 cases of Powassan virus disease to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three people died. Most cases occur in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions from the late spring through mid-fall when ticks are most active, the CDC said.