Saturday, December 7, 2013

N.J. officials alert medical community about fatality from tick-borne illness |

The state Department of Health sent a statewide advisory about a rare tick-borne disease to doctors and public health officials late yesterday, urging physicians to consider it as a possible cause for patients with viral encephalitis or meningitis.

51-year-old Warren County woman died in mid-May of Powassan virus, a tick-borne illness whose most dangerous symptom is encephalitis.

It was New Jersey's first case of a disease that, while extremely rare, is fatal in 10 percent of the cases. It is carried by the same tick that carries bacteria for Lyme disease — although only 1 percent carry Powassan.

Powassan differs from Lyme disease in another important way: While a tick has to remain attached to a person for at least a day to transmit Lyme, it needs only 15 minutes to spread Powassan.

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