A resident of York County has died from a rare virus caused by a tick bite, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Deer ticks carry the virus that causes Powassan disease. Griffin Dill photo

It is the first fatal case of Powassan virus infection in Maine since May 2023. Two other Maine residents – one in Kennebec County and the other in Lincoln County – are known to have been infected with the virus so far this year. The state did not release details about their health status, but the virus is not fatal in most cases.

Cases of Powassan are rare in the United States, with about 20 to 50 cases reported each year across the country over the past five years. Maine identified a record number of seven cases of Powassan in 2023 and has recorded 25 infections of the virus since 2014, including four deaths in the last decade, the Maine CDC said.

People acquire Powassan through the bite of an infected deer or woodchuck tick. Deer ticks, which also carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, can be active any time the temperature is above freezing, but are most active in the spring, summer and fall. The Powassan virus may spread from ticks to people in as little as 15 minutes after a bite.

Many people infected with Powassan virus do not get sick or have symptoms. There is no telltale rash as with Lyme disease.

For people who develop symptoms, the time from tick bite to feeling unwell can begin anytime within one month of being bitten. Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Some people may experience serious neurologic problems, like brain or spinal cord inflammation.


About 10% of the people who develop severe cases of Powassan virus die. People with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite, call a health care provider as soon as possible, the CDC said.

Ticks live in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas and deer ticks have been found in all 16 counties of Maine and they are currently active. The best protection against all tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites.

Following these tips can help keep you from getting sick from a tick:

• Know tick habitat and take precautions in areas where ticks may live.
• Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs; tuck pants into socks.
• Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on skin; use permethrin on clothing.
• Check for ticks daily and after any outdoor activity. Check family members and pets, too.
• Remove your clothing when you get home and put it in the dryer before washing. Use high heat for 10-15 minutes to kill any crawling ticks that have not attached to you.

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