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Thursday, June 30, 2011

First Death in Minnesota from Powassan Virus

The first death related to the Powassan virus was recorded in Minnesota Wednesday according to a release by the Minnesota Department of Health

The victim was a Northern Minnesota woman in her 60s.

Another likely Powassan case was identified in Anoka County this year in a man also in his 60s.

Both the female and male cases became ill in May after spending time outdoors and noticing tick bites -- the Powassan virus is transmitted by blacklegged or “deer” ticks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

They both developed brain infections due to the virus. While the female passed away from the infection, the male was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.

The Powassan virus was first identified in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario. Since that time about 60 cases have been identified in North America.

The virus was mostly seen in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. until the last decade when, cases were reported in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Locally, Powassan infected ticks have been found in Houston County, and the heavy forested hardwood areas of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin offer a good home to ticks that can carry the virus.

Powassan virus is related to West Nile virus and both diseases can cause severe infections of the central nervous system.

These infections involve inflammation of the brain or the lining of the brain and spinal cord. (read more)