Powassan Virus Encephalitis Following Brief Attachment of Connecticut Deer Ticks

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 5;73(7):e2350-e2354. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1183.


Background: Powassan virus (POWV) is a tick-transmitted pathogen that may cause severe encephalitis; experimentally, it can be transmitted within just 15 minutes following a tick bite. The deer tick virus subtype of POWV (DTV) is transmitted by the deer tick and is the likely cause of the increase in the number of POWV cases reported in the United States. However, DTV has only been definitively documented in 6 patients by molecular analysis of the virus.

Methods: Two patients from Connecticut with encephalitis, who had a recent deer tick bite, were evaluated by the relevant serologic tests to determine if they had been infected with POWV. Evaluation also included molecular testing of an adult deer tick that had been removed from one of the patients.

Results: We documented neuroinvasive POWV infection in 2 children from Connecticut. Based on the results of testing the tick removed from case 2, this patient was infected by DTV, representing the 7th reported case and the first documented case of DTV infection in a child. Of note, the duration of the tick bites in both cases was very short.

Conclusions: We provide the first clinical and epidemiologic evidence that POWV/DTV can be rapidly transmitted to a human host, that is, within hours of tick attachment, which is distinctive when compared to other deer tick-transmitted infections such as Lyme disease.

Keywords: Lyme disease; Powassan virus; children; deer tick virus; encephalitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Tick-Borne*
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ixodes*