AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has confirmed the state’s first case of Powassan virus infection in 2021. A Waldo County resident who likely became infected in Maine is recovering after spending time in the hospital.
Cases of Powassan are rare in the U.S., with about 25 cases reported each year since 2015. Maine has identified nine cases since 2010. Humans become infected with Powassan through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick.
Maine CDC urges residents and visitors to take precautions against bites from ticks, as well as mosquitoes, which can similarly spread serious diseases.
There are four viruses spread by ticks or mosquitoes in Maine. Besides Powassan virus, which is spread by ticks, infected mosquitoes in Maine can spread Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Jamestown Canyon virus (JCV) and West Nile virus (WNV). All these viruses have similar symptoms, which may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Serious neurologic problems may occur, including infection of the brain or the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Severe infection may result in death.
Deer ticks can also carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and other illnesses.
Many people infected with the viruses carried by ticks and mosquitoes do not have symptoms. No specific treatment is available for these viral diseases. If you experience symptoms, call a health care provider as soon as you can.
The best protection against all tickborne and mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent bites. Prevent tick and mosquito bites by:
- Wearing protective clothing, including long sleeves and pants.
- Using an EPA-approved repellent on skin, and Permethrin on clothing for added protection.
- Using caution in tick-infested areas. Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and stay in the middle of trails whenever possible.
- Taking extra precautions at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes in Maine are most active.
- Performing daily tick checks, especially after leaving tick habitat and after returning home.
- Bathing or showering after coming inside. Also examine clothing, gear and pets.
- Draining artificial sources of standing water around the home. This is ideal habitat for mosquitoes to lay eggs.
- Asking a veterinarian about tick bite prevention for cats and dogs, and vaccinating horses against EEE and WNV.
For more information, visit Maine CDC’s vector-borne disease website at www.maine.gov/dhhs/vectorborne.