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Tick-born Powassan virus kills in Minnesota for the first time

Add the grim tick-born Powassan virus to the list of natural calamities - tornadoes, floods -- that can kill you this summer in Minnesota.

The first known fatality from the virus in the state was a woman identified by the Department of Health only as being in her 60s, from northern Minnesota. She was most likely bitten by an infected tick in May while outside near her home, or a cabin.

An unidentified man from Anoka County also contracted the virus from a tick bite in May, but he survived.

In one sense he was lucky, because Powassan virus - also known as POW -- isn't treatable with antibiotics; once an infected tick bites, the virus will spread. But it's only fatal in 10 percent of cases.

In the woods this summer? Cover up, and soak yourself in insect repellent. Tiny deer ticks can cause havock in just a few minutes.
In the woods this summer? Cover up, and soak yourself in insect repellent. Tiny deer ticks can cause havock in just a few minutes.

On the other hand, it's a miserable illness with which to cope, attacking the central nervous system, causing inflammation of the brain - known as encephalitis -- or the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). MDH says Victim report fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and memory loss within one to five weeks of an infectious bite.

And it's carried by deer ticks, which also carry Lyme Disease.

The best way to avoid POW is simple: Prevent ticks from biting in the first place. If you're outside during the summer in the state's hardwood and mixed-hardwood forests, cover your body, lather on the insect repellent, and swat away insects the moment they land on you. It can take only a few minutes for a biting insect to transmit the virus.

Details: Minnesota Department of Health


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