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Tick Bite Kills NJ Man

Jennifer Smith

Posted on June 10 2019

Heath officials are investigating whether an extremely rare tick-borne disease killed a Sussex County man who died after he said he was bit by a tick while gardening, according to a report from the New Jersey Herald.

Two cases of the often-deadly Powassan virus were confirmed in New Jersey’s northernmost county earlier this week, state health officials said. The disease, which is spread by ticks, has no known cure.

One of the affected people -- identified by the New Jersey Herald as 80-year-old Hampton resident Armand Desormeaux -- died May 16 after he contracted the virus. The exact cause of his death is still being investigated and it is unclear if Powassan or another health condition killed Desormeaux.

Dianne Rude, Desormeaux’s daughter, told the New Jersey Herald that her father was bit by a tick while gardening on April 15, but he didn’t think much of the bite because no rash ever formed.

Desormeaux began running a fever a few weeks later and his health quickly deteriorated, his daughter told the newspaper. He suffered from violent tremors and began to lose the use of his limbs before he died.

The second Powassan case in Sussex County involves an unidentified individual who is at home recovering, according to state Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner.

Powassan virus affects the central nervous system and can cause swelling of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Powassan virus can be transmitted to humans by black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks. The virus is fatal for about 10% of people who contract it. About half of survivors are left with permanent neurological problems, including recurrent headaches and memory loss.

There are no vaccines or medications to treat the virus, which was first identified in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958.

Leusner said New Jersey has had 10 confirmed cases of Powassan virus since 2013, including the two latest cases. Powassan was first found in New Jersey in 2013, when the disease caused the death of a Warren County woman.

Written by Michal Sol Warren,