June 8, 2022 – A Connecticut woman died after contracting the tick-borne Powassan virus, state health officials announced this week.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health said in a press release on Tuesday that the resident, a woman in her 90s, died after testing positive for Powassan virus (POWV). This is the first POWV fatality and second POWV case in Connecticut this year.
She became unresponsive over the following 2 weeks and died on May 17.
The woman was bitten by a tick 2 weeks before her symptoms began, officials said, noting that tests performed by a CDC lab in Colorado confirmed that the woman had antibodies associated with a POWV infection.
Powassan virus is spread to humans primarily through tick bites, namely from infected deer ticks, squirrel ticks, and groundhog ticks, according to the CDC. POWV is only spread from person to person through blood. (The first POWV case in Connecticut in 2022, a man in his 50s, contracted the virus from a tick bite as well, officials said.)
Most people infected with POWV don’t have symptoms or only have mild flu-like symptoms. About 1 in 10 cases of severe illness are fatal, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which noted that about half of POWV survivors have long-term health issues. There is no specific treatment for Powassan virus, but supportive care like hospitalization, respiratory support, and hydration can help ease symptoms.