Two Midcoast Maine residents have been diagnosed with the Powassan virus, a dangerous tick-borne illness.
The Maine CDC said that both individuals were hospitalized after becoming ill at the end of April. Since then, both have been released and are recovering.
“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,” state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett said in a statement to Portland Press Herald. “Ticks are found in wooded and bushy areas so use caution if you go into these areas.”
Powassan is extremely rare and dangerous, according to the CDC. Most of the diagnoses are in Northeast and Great Lakes regions. Symptoms of the virus, which has no specific treatment, include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. People are often hospitalized for treatment to help with brain swelling. The virus can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and meningitis. The CDC says that half of all survivors usually have long-term neurological effects.
The best way to reduce the risk of contracting Powassan or any tick-borne illness is by using tick repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants in wooded areas.
Lyme disease, another tick-borne illness, is much more common, infecting hundreds of thousands a year.