NY Dept. of Health: Saratoga Co. resident with confirmed case of tick-borne illness dies

SARATOGA COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Department of Health said a Saratoga County resident with a confirmed case of a tick-borne illness has died.

Many people know of Lyme disease, but there is a lesser known, more dangerous tick-borne illness called the Powassan virus.

Powassan can be fatal, and there has been one confirmed case of the virus in Saratoga County.

“It’s frightening,” Bill Purcell said. “It’s, you know, concerning. I like to be outside. I like to stay outside with my dog.”

The Saratoga County resident who died had Powassan, according to the NYS DOH.

“I just heard about it just now,” Kendra Bickers said. “We were all just talking about it cause it’s such a big concern with all the woods around here.”

The DOH said it will be reporting the case to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday. Officials said they are not allowed to give any patient specific information such as the age or the identity of the person who died.

The virus is spread through infected deer ticks.

Symptoms can include swelling of the brain, fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures. The CDC said many people who become infected with Powassan do not develop symptoms.

“Nausea, vomiting, a really severe headache that won’t go away,” Deputy Dir. of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Bryon Backenson said. “If you hike, if you garden a lot, if you know that you’ve been bitten by ticks, that’s information that you should relay to your physician.”

There is no specific treatment for the Powassan virus. The CDC said people with severe Powassan virus often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.

You can reduce the risk of getting tick-borne illnesses by using tick repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding bushy and wooded areas, and doing tick checks after spending time outdoors.

Places to check include the hairline, behind the ears, and at the waistband. If you find a tick on your body, remove it with tweezers.

The total number of cases of Powassan in New York is 24, including two confirmed cases in 2016. The two cases from 2016 were in Dutchess County and Westchester.

According to the DOH, Powassan is not common in the Capital Region, and Saratoga County residents are not at a higher risk. While the virus can be fatal and should be taken seriously, it is still very rare.

According to the CDC, approximately 75 cases of POW virus disease were reported in the United States over the past 10 years.

“We’ve talked about 24 cases in New York in 17 years, and I think there have only been 75 cases nationwide,” Backenson said.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member may have the Powassan virus is urged to consult with a healthcare provider.

Powassan Virus FAQs


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