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Waldo County resident dies from tick-borne illness

The illness is spread by the bite of infected ticks.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Waldo County resident has died from the rare Powassan virus, which is contracted through an infected tick bite. 

According to a news release issued Wednesday by the the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the person likely became infected in Maine and developed neurological symptoms. 

The release states that only about 25 cases of Powassan virus are reported each year, with Maine identifying 14 cases since 2010. 

Powassan is considered a very serious tick-borne illness, due to its ability to cause encephalitis and other neurological problems, and is often transmitted by deer ticks, according to an article by the Maine CDC.

Symptoms of the virus often appear between a week and a month from the tick bite, and may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, or memory loss, the release states, and in rare cases, neurologic problems, such as brain or spinal cord inflammation, may occur. 

"Ticks are active and looking for a host to bite right now. I urge Maine people and visitors to take steps that prevent tick bites," Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said in the release. 

The Maine CDC offers tips on its website to prevent getting bit and what to do if you are. 

Know your surroundings. A tick habitat includes tall grass in wooded areas and places with brush. 

Use EPA-approved insect repellent on skin and Permethrin on clothing. 

Check for ticks during and after encountering a tick habitat. 

If you have been bit and the tick is embedded, remove it as soon as possible with a tick removal device, tweezers, or a tick spoon. Once removed, wash the area with soap and water. 

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