The first travel-related death from a rare tick-borne virus has been recorded in Maryland after an individual contracted it in Canada.
The presence of Powassan virus in an individual who traveled to Maryland was confirmed by the department on September 22. Powassan is an illness spread by the bite of an infected tick, according to a Friday news release from the state’s department of health.
“We are very saddened to report the first death due to the Powassan virus in our state,” Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said in the release. “Powassan is very rare, and this is the first-ever case recorded in Maryland. The individual contracted the virus in Canada and returned to Maryland afterward.”
Kalyanaraman said health officials do not believe there is a threat of local transmission of Powassan in Maryland but urge everyone “to practice good habits when in areas that could have ticks or avoid those areas altogether.”
A resident of Gardiner, New York, became the first death in that state in August, CNN previously reported.
The Powassan virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick, and although still rare, reported cases of people sick with the virus have increased in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus is not “transmitted from person to person, except in rare instances by blood transfusion,” according to the CDC.
The virus can cause fever, headache, vomiting, loss of coordination and memory and speech problems, however, it often does not present with any symptoms, the CDC said. It can also cause encephalitis and meningitis.
In 2022, states reported 44 cases of Powassan virus disease to the CDC. Seven people died. So far in 2023, 28 cases have been reported to the CDC.
Most cases occur in the northeast and Great Lakes regions from late spring through mid-fall when ticks are most active, the CDC said. There are no vaccines to prevent the virus or medicines to treat it, according to the CDC.
CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this report.