Ticks in the News

Confirmed case of potentially fatal tick borne virus in Saratoga County NY

This article was written and reported by Lindsay Nielsen, Reporter at NEWS10 ALBANY

SARATOGA, N.Y. - A study conducted in part by researchers at the Wadsworth Center in Slingerlands revealed that a potentially deadly tick borne virus has been found in people in Saratoga and Albany County.

The New York State Department of Health and the Saratoga County Health Department says there was one confirmed case of the deer tick virus, also known as Powassan virus, in May of this year in Saratoga County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control its one of the 16 confirmed cases in New York State. According to the CDC it did kill a patient in Minnesota taken care of by Dr. Justin Birge.

"So brain swelling from the virus was what caused her death and it led to respiratory failure and coma," said Dr. Birge.

Dr Birge says the tick borne illness can be hard to diagnose because its beginning symptoms are similar to the flu, but severe symptoms are more noticeable.

"Certainly something like altered level of consciousness, being very sleepy,"said Dr. Birge.

Dr. Birge says someone infected may not have symptoms until two weeks later, and testing for the virus is difficult. Perhaps the most troubling part of the deer tick virus is the lack of a cure.

"In terms of treating the viral infection in itself there's no treatment," said Dr. Birge.

Dr. Laura Kramer with the Wadsworth Center tells NEWS10 that one person has died from this virus. She says the person died within 8 months of severe symptoms.

Symptoms people face after contracting Powassan virus include drowsiness, lethargy, headache and fever.

Dr. Kramer says the virus ultimately leads to death in about 10 to 30 percent of the cases.

She says the virus is transmitted at a rapid rate, about 15 minutes, as compared to Lyme disease which is transmitted in about two days.

Researchers at the Wadsworth Center found that the amount of ticks with this deadly virus are increasing, and if someone has been bitten by a deer tick, there is a one in 20 chance that it has the fatal illness. They have been found in Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia Counties.

The Albany County Health Department says there was one confirmed case in the county in 2004.

Read more on News10 ABC in Albany NY

Lone Star Ticks Moving West on Long Island

NBC Channel 4 News in New York reports that the lone star tick, found for decades mainly on Long Island's East End, has been moving west into more populated Suffolk County communities, according to a county health official. Read more here.

Heartland virus found in Lone Star ticks

Amblyomma americanum tick

As reported in MedPage Today, the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, appears to be the source of the novel virus that hospitalized two Missouri men in 2009, researchers reported. 

A sample of ticks collected last year from the farms of the two men and a nearby site had the so-called Heartland virus, or HRTV, according to Harry Savage, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues.

Read more about the original study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene:
First Detection of Heartland Virus (Bunyaviridae: Phlebovirus) from Field Collected Arthropods

Further commentary about this same case found on NPR here.

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