HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Four Connecticut residents have tested positive for the Powassan virus (POWV), state Department of Public Health officials announced Monday. The four cases are the first identified in the state in 2023. 

State health officials said two men who are at least 60 years old from Middlesex and Litchfield counties became ill in early July, and two women who are over 50 from Windham and Litchfield counties became sick in late July.

The state Department of Health said lab tests performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Laboratory in Ft. Collins, Colorado, confirmed the presence of antibodies to POWV for all patients.

All patients reported having a tick bite and were hospitalized with a central nervous system disease. They have been discharged and are recovering.

“The identification of four Connecticut residents with Powassan virus-associated illness emphasizes the importance of taking actions to protect yourself from tick bites from now through the late fall,” said Department of Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “Using insect repellent, avoiding areas where ticks are likely, and checking carefully for ticks after being outside can reduce the chance of you or your children being infected with this virus.”

From 2016 to 2022, Connecticut had 19 Powassan virus-associated illnesses, including six in 2022, and two of the infections were fatal last year.

State health officials said it takes one week to one month after the bite of an infected tick to develop symptoms of POWV disease, and the virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes after the tick first attaches. Powassan virus-associated illness has been reported from early spring until late fall.

While most people infected with POWV likely experience no symptoms or a mild flu-like illness, others will develop severe illness affecting the central nervous system.

How to prevent tick bites

  • Avoid areas where ticks are likely, such as grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks are active from spring to fall and may also be active on warmer days during winter.
  • Consider the use of CDC-recommended mosquito/tick repellents, containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanone, and apply according to directions, when outdoors. However, repellents containing at least 30% DEET have been reported to be the most effective.
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pet animals for ticks immediately after coming indoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors may be effective in reducing the risk of tick-borne disease.
  • Examine clothing and gear carefully after coming indoors. Tumble dry clothing in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks that were carried inside.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick-prevention products for your dog.
  • Consider treating items such as boots, clothing, and hiking or camping gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.