Maine man dies from tick-borne disease


The fatal case of Powassan virus disease is the first known case of tick-borne disease in Maine in 2023.

Powassan virus disease is mainly contracted by deer ticks (pictured above) or groundhog ticks. CDC via AP, File

Maine health officials are warning residents to beware of ticks, after a Portland resident died of a rare tick-borne illness.

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that an adult in Sagadahoc County died of Powassan virus disease on May 17, marking the first known case of the untreatable illness in the state this year. The victim was Robert J. Weymouth, 58, of Portland, according to a local obituary.

“Cases of Powassan are rare in the United States, with approximately 25 cases reported each year since 2015,” the CDC wrote in a press release. “Maine has identified 15 cases since 2015, including four in 2022. Two of the people who contracted Powassan in 2022 have died from the disease, making this the third Powassan death recorded in Maine since 2015.”

Officials say people contract the virus primarily from infected deer or groundhog ticks, and some people bitten will never notice symptoms. People with symptoms may begin to develop fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, or memory loss a week to a month after the initial bite.

“Some people may experience serious neurological problems, such as inflammation of the brain or spinal cord,” the CDC said. “About 10% of people with severe illness die. If you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite, call a health care provider as soon as possible.

Ticks reside in wooded, leafy and shrubby areas, and officials say they can be found in all 16 counties of Maine often in the spring, summer and fall. The CDC recommends the following to avoid and prevent tick bites:

  • Know the habitat of ticks and take precautions in areas where ticks may live.
  • Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs; tuck the pants into the socks.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on the skin; use permethrin on clothing.
  • Check for ticks daily and after any outdoor activity. Also check family members and pets.
  • Ask a veterinarian about preventing tick bites for cats and dogs.
  • When you get home, take your clothes off and put them in the dryer before washing them. Use high heat for 10-15 minutes to kill crawling ticks that have not attached to you.

For more information about the Powassan virus and ticks, people can check the Maine CDC Powassan website, get information on repellents, watch the Maine CDC tick-borne disease videos, and visit the website from the University of Maine Tick Lab.


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