Rhode Island woman dies after infection with tick-borne disease

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A Rhode Island woman is dead after contracting a rare case ot the tick-borne Powassan virus disease. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health said the virus had been detected in a Washington County resident over 80. 

She developed neurological symptoms and passed away in mid-July.

Laboratory testing had been conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed the finding earlier this month. 

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A tick on a blade of grass

A tick (Ixodida) on a stalk in a meadow. (Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Powassan virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected tick.

The disease is mainly found in the Northeast and the Great Lakes regions of the U.S.

While cases are rare, the CDC notes that the reported number has increased in recent years. 

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Lone star tick

A live specimen of the lone star tick (A. Americanum) in a lab in Morrill Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

More than 239 cases have been reported in the U.S. over the past decade, from 2013 to 2022. 

This year, there have been 11 Powassan virus disease cases across the U.S.

Initial symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. 

Tick warning sign

Signs warning of ticks at the entrance to a trail at Mashashimuet Park on Main Street in Sag Harbor, New York, on Aug. 2, 2023. (James Carbone/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

The disease usually progresses to meningoencephalitis, including meningeal signs, altered mental status, seizures, difficulty understanding or speaking, muscular weakness or paralysis, movement disorders or cranial nerve palsies.

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People with severe Powassan often need to be hospitalized. 

There is no vaccine or treatment for the disease, so preventing exposure to ticks is the best strategy to avoid this disease.



POST AUTHOR: Julia Musto

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