A Waldo County resident has died after contracting a rare tick-borne virus that causes brain infections.
It is the third fatal case of Powassan virus recorded in Maine over the past decade.
Robert Long, a spokesperson for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that the person developed neurological symptoms and died while in the hospital.
That person likely contracted the virus while in Maine, Long said.
The virus is transmitted to humans by deer and woodchuck ticks. Only 25 cases are reported across the U.S. each year, and just 14 have been recorded in Maine since 2010.
“Ticks are active and looking for a host to bite right now,” said Nirav D. Shah, the director of the Maine CDC. “I urge Maine people and visitors to take steps that prevent tick bites.”
Symptoms of the Powassan virus include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. More serious neurologic issues can occur, including infection of the brain and the membranes around the brain and spinal column. When severe, infection can result in death.
Those symptoms are similar to other tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, including eastern equine encephalitis, Jamestown Canyon virus and West Nile virus.
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 first documented death from Powassan virus in Maine happened in 2013, claiming the life of a South Thomaston artist.