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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Death in Minnesota from Tick-Borne Virus

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deer tick life stages and metric rule. The adult ticks (left) are approximately 1/8 of an inch long, while the nymph (third from left) is just under 1/16 of an inch. (from Minn Dept of Health)

from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Public Radio

A Minnesota woman has died from a tick-borne virus known as the Powassan Virus, named for a city in Ontario where is was first described in 1958. Only 60 cases have been reported in the past five decades, until recently. In the past three years, six cases have turned up in northern Minnesota. The victim was in her 60s, and died from the resulting brain infection after being bitten.

The virus is carried by the deer tick, and possibly Ixodes cookei, sometimes known as the groundhog tick. The virus causes an inflammation of the brain or the brain's membranes, resulting in encephalitis, or meningitis. Although rare, the disease is extremely serious, with approximately 10% fatality. In addition, the virus is transmitted from tick to human much more quickly than the Lyme Disease virus, which can take 12-48 hours. Times as short as 15 minutes have been posted on some web sites, but the MN health department states the the time is shorter, but not known with certainty.

Minnesota NCT hikers should use precautions. Counties included in the warning for this disease include Cass, Itasca, and Hubbard, through which the trail passes. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and memory loss. It can take a week after being bitten for symptoms to appear.

This segment is on NCTA map MN-09 and MN-10

See Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the NCTA
See Itasca-Moraine Chapter of the NCTA

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