Woman Dies From Virus Carried By Deer Ticks

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A virus that ticks carry has killed someone in Minnesota for the first time. It’s called Powassan Virus, and it comes from a deer tick.

“This woman was in her 60s and had an onset of illness in May and died,” said Melissa Kemperman, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Kemperman helped investigate that first death from the virus in the state which happened in June. The woman died from a brain infection, and the Minnesota Department of Health is not releasing her name at this time. 

Powassan Virus first showed up in a child in Cass County three years ago. It has spread mostly across the northern part of the state, in Cass, Carlton, Hubbard, Itasca and Kanabec Counties.

The Virus has also made an appearance in far southeastern Minnesota in Houston County.

“The ticks that carry this do well in forest habitat in hardwood forest or mixed hardwood forest,” said Kemperman.

There’s no drug you can take to cure yourself if you get it, so Kemperman said that prevention is key. The deer tick can transmit the virus in just a few minutes, resulting in a rash, fever and fatigue, and eventually leading to hospitalization.

The message is simple according to experts. You need to protect yourself by spraying yourself with an insect repellant that includes the ingredient DEET.  It repels ticks.

“If you start having a fever or develop a rash within a month of spending time in the woods, even if they don’t remember getting a tick bite, it’s probably worth seeking medical care for it,” Kemperman said.

One other likely Powassan case has been identified this year in Minnesota. An Anoka County man in the his 60s who was hospitalized with a brain infection and is now recovering at home.

Officials with the Department of Health said that he might have been exposed near his home or at a cabin in northern Minnesota.

So far with this death and the other case from Anoka County, the state has identified eight people with the virus in Minnesota.


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