Family speaks out after man diagnosed with tick-borne illness passes away

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A family is speaking out after a man diagnosed with Powassan, a tick-borne illness, passed away about their concerns over how the New York Department of Health handled the case.

“He absolutely adored being outside hunting and fishing.”

Stephanie Smith says her 74-year-old father Charles Smith was hunting and fishing just days before he ended up in Glens Falls Hospital on May 11th.

Smith says her dad went to his primary care doctor prior for a tick bite on his arm. She says he was dismissed and not given any antibiotics or a Lyme disease test because he didn’t have a rash.

“There doesn’t have to be a rash present to do that. He had a known engorged tick,” Smith said.

While at Glens Falls Hospital, Smith says her father’s health started to deteriorate and continued to tell doctors about his tick bite.

Charles died on June 8th and his death certificate listed the Powassan Virus, a tick-borne illness, as the cause of death.

“It’s a huge loss in our family, a very big loss.”

Smith has another concern with the treatment of her father’s case. She wants to know why the confirmed case of Powassan wasn’t reported when, according to medical records she obtained from Glens Falls Hospital on May 30th, and a blood test from the State Health Department run Wadsworth Center lab in Albany was positive for Powassan.

“That’s two months that this has sat in limbo whether somebody be covering it up, whether it just wasn’t reported. We want to get to the bottom of where did the communication line break down? The public deserves to know.”

NEWS10 ABC’s Lindsay Nielsen asked the New York Department of Health for the information on Monday and on Wednesday she received a call from the department with the information.

On Wednesday, Smith also went public with the information about her father’s death.

“I don’t believe the information would be out there if I did not go to the media. Nothing’s ever going to bring our dad back, their grandfather back. The only thing that it’s going to do is it’s going to prevent this from happening and hopefully the treatment of another family member for somebody else.”

Smith says she’ll continue to do whatever she can to get the word out about the dangers of tick-borne illness, of course for the memory of her father and those in her community.

Statement from the New York Department of Health:

“Suspected cases of specific communicable diseases – like Powassan – go through a full battery of rigorous testing at the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center Laboratory to ensure accuracy. After a thorough internal review to confirm a positive test,  the Department shares the results with the CDC and other health care professionals to raise awareness and to educate local health care providers on how they can best protect New Yorkers from the spread of disease.”

Statement from Glens Falls Hospital:

” Due to laws protecting patient confidentiality, we are not able to provide information about a specific patient’s case.”

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