2 cases of extremely rare tick-borne illness detected in Maine

Two Maine residents have been diagnosed with an extremely rare, tick-borne illness known as Powassan virus, according to a report from the Bangor Daily News.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention was notified of the confirmed cases last week after the conclusion of sample testing at the U.S. CDC's lab in Fort Collins, Colo., according the report. The two individuals became ill in April and were subsequently hospitalized. Both experienced encephalitis — brain inflammation — which is one of the potential symptoms of the virus.

Since 2000, nine Maine residents, including the two most recently confirmed cases, have been infected with the POW virus, according to the report.

"Powassan, although rare, can be serious, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take steps to avoid being bitten by ticks. Ticks are found in wooded and bushy areas so use caution if you go into these areas," said Siiri Bennett, MD, Maine's state epidemiologist, in a release obtained by Bangor Daily News.

While many patients experience no symptoms at all, the POW virus is deadly in approximately 10 percent of cases. The virus targets the central nervous system and can cause meningitis as well as encephalitis. Other possible symptoms include confusion, fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures.

In November 2016, a five-month-old infant in Connecticut contracted the POW virus, marking the first case of the illness in the state's history.

POW virus cases are rare in the U.S., as the CDC has recorded roughly 75 POW virus disease cases in the last 10 years.

To learn more about POW virus, click here.

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