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.

Comments (3)
  1. BettyG, Iowa lyme activist says:

    My heartfelt sympathies to this woman’s family for their deep loss. So tragic and how DEADLY a tick carrying this fatal disease can happen in justa minute!

    With this being JULY 4TH weekend, please use care being outdoors to protect yourself against ticks the size of a poppy seed or the period at the end ofthis sentence to the the size of aLARGE O of adult male; female is size of a small o UNLESS BLOOD ENGORGED for all of them!

    Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks tucked OVER PANTS LEGS, SHOES, SOCKS, gloves, a neck scarf, and a hat coming down over yourr neck/face ara.

    Ticks LOVE moist areas: underarms, groin, behind the knees.

    If you are hiking in woods, please use MASKING TAPE in those areas to prevent ticks from crawling up and into those areas. USE DEET.

    Do PROMPT TICK CHECKS off/on duringthe day and promptly AT HOME taking off all clothes, put in dryer to kill majority of live ticks carried in on clothing.

    If you see a tick embedded or have a bulls-eyerash or ANY rash, promptlysee a dr. for 3 months of antibiotics! 2 months showing NO SYMPTOMS before stopping antibiotics or you can end up wit hCHRONIC LYME/CO-INFECTIONSlike the majority of us.

    I’ve had chroniclyme 42.5 yrs; MISDIAGNOSED for 35 years by 40-50 drs; UNACCEPTABLE! None ever asked if I’d seen a tick embedded orhaving a rash/bulls-eye rash!

    Lyme disease has 300 other diseases that MIMICK lyme disease: ALS, MC, parkinson’s, alzheimer’s/dementia, fibromyalgiapain, chronic fatigue syndrome, bell’s pulsy, majority of MENTALillnesses, and the list goes on.

    Please goto http://www.ilads.org for moreinfo; Intl.Lyme Associated Disease Society and read their lyme/co-infection guidelines; thank you.

    Again, my heartfelt sympathies to this woman’s extended family members.

    1. Gerald Zeise says:

      I Have had two tick diseases. I now use a product by REPEL, called PERMANONE. I used Deet and they crawled up my pants anyway. This is sprayed on your pants/boots (The PERMANONE) They get confused, some go in circles and die . Follow the directions! Spray on and wait 4 hrs. before putting on. Lasts a minimum of 2 weeks and clothing can be washed and it still works!

      1. Sherri Horenstein says:

        Thanks for the tip about permanone. My son works on a horse ranch and is outside all the time. He’s just gotten over Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite. I’ll have to get him some of the permanone.

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