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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – A New York resident has died of Powassan virus, a rare disease spread by infected deer ticks, according to the Ulster County.

It was the first-known Powassan case diagnosed in New York this year, the county’s Department of Health and Mental Health said in a release.

The Gardiner resident had other underlying health conditions before the person’s death earlier this week, the department said.

While the risk of getting the virus is low — “tens of thousands of people get tick bites every year, and typically in New York State, anywhere from only zero to six cases of Powassan infection are diagnosed each year,” according to the department — it is often serious when contracted.

“It is imperative that all residents take every precaution necessary against tick-borne illnesses, especially during outdoor activities,” said Ulster County Commissioner of Heath and Mental Health Dr. Carol M. Smith.

“Residents should vigilantly check themselves and their pets for ticks and tick bites.”

Symptoms of the virus include a fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and memory problems.

The Powassan virus was identified last week in a resident of Maine, the Centers for Disease Control announced.

Health officials in Ulster County advised that if a person or their family member is bitten by a tick and experiences one or more of the symptoms, they should contact a doctor immediately.

National: CDC warns of exotic ticks spreading across the nation that may carry diseases

Avoiding of tick-borne diseases

The department provided six precautions residents should take when spending time outdoors:

  • Stay on clear well-traveled paths.
  • Wear light colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Tuck your pants into socks.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET or diethyltoluamide for skin applications and Permethrin for clothing and shoes.
  • Shower as soon as possible after spending time outdoors.
  • Checking everyone, including pets, frequently and at the end of each day, and remove all ticks promptly and properly.

Ulster County will expand a public awareness campaign regarding the prevention of tick-borne diseases, County Executive Pat Ryan said

“On behalf of the county we send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our neighbor who passed away,” said Ryan.

“I have directed our health commissioner and county departments to take every step necessary to help prevent the spread of tick-borne diseases.”

Follow Katelyn Cordero on Twitter: @KatelynCordero

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