Doctor speaks after 80-year-old dies of complications from rare tick-borne illness

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island Department of Health reported a confirmed case of the tick-borne Powassan virus.

The disease was detected in a Rhode Island resident who later died after contracting the disease.

Doctor Suzzane Bornschein, from RIDOH explained, “Powassan is a tick-borne illness, so if you think about Lyme disease, it is also something we get from ticks but Powassan is a virus that can also happen when a Rhode Islander gets infected by a tick carrying Powassan.”

The case involved a woman over the age of 80 from Washington County who developed neurological symptoms and passed away in mid-July.

The department said the disease is found mostly in the northeast and the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and in eastern Canada.

For Rhode Islanders, safety and protection from ticks is important when exploring outside.

“Doing a good tick check and making sure that your pants are tucked in and using a product with deet and wearing lighter clothing so you can see a tick that you can remove. Just making sure we are doing a tick check for sure when you get back from being outdoors,” Bornschein said.

Powassan symptoms are not always apparent to victims.

“One of the things we do know about Powassan is that many people do not get symptoms at all but for those that get symptoms, the time from the tick bite to the time people don’t feel well is anywhere from a week to a month. We don’t know exactly how long it may take for the tick to transmit,” Bornschein continued.

Powassan cases are rare, but the reported number of cases has increased in recent years. Rhode Island has total of five reported cases with one being fatal.

More information about the disease and how to protect yourself can be found here.

Categories: News, Rhode Island