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Friday, August 2, 2013

N.H. man has two rare insect-borne viruses – first time they’ve been found in the state

As further evidence that people should protect themselves from biting insects, a Hillsborough County man has become infected with two viruses never reported in the state before – one of them carried by mosquitoes, the other by ticks.

It wasn’t clear Thursday where or when the patient, identified only as an adult male, became infected with the Jamestown Canyon virus and the Powassan virus, or what his condition is. ...

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As further evidence that people should protect themselves from biting insects, a Hillsborough County man has become infected with two viruses never reported in the state before – one of them carried by mosquitoes, the other by ticks.

It wasn’t clear Thursday where or when the patient, identified only as an adult male, became infected with the Jamestown Canyon virus and the Powassan virus, or what his condition is.

Like West Nile virus, both of these viruses can present a range of symptoms in people: sometimes none, sometimes the symptoms of a mild cold, and sometimes serious meningitis-like symptoms, including fever and changes in mental status because of the inflammation of the brain.

Chris Adamski, director of the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease, said the announcement was made partly to alert public-health officials to consider these two viruses – part of a class known as arbovirus because they are transmitted by the bite of arthropods such as insects and ticks – when diagnosing a patient.

“There are a lot of arboviral infections out there, some we may not know yet or that are rare,” she said. “It’s important that we get a better understand of them. If people are presenting with symptoms like this, we want to advise clinicians to consider (them).”

“While this is our first announcement of Jamestown Canyon virus and Powassan virus in New Hampshire, these have been in the U.S. for a while, and Powassan was found in Maine and Vermont previously so this is not entirely unexpected,” said Dr. Jose Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS, in a public statement. “There are many mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses, and unfortunately, we are probably going to continue to see cases of them, which makes prevention steps all the more important.”

Jamestown Canyon virus or JVC, which takes its name from the California site where it was first isolated in 1943, is a mosquito-borne pathogen that circulates widely in North America but doesn’t usually infect humans – it passes primarily between deer and a variety of mosquito species. Reports of JVC in people are unusual and have been confined to the Midwestern and Northeastern states and central Canada.

Most reported illnesses caused by JVC have been mild, but moderate-to-severe central nervous system involvement has been reported, the state said.

Powassan virus, named after the Ontario, Canada, town where it was first identified in 1958, is transmitted to people by infected ticks. Fewer than 60 cases of the disease have been detected in the United States and Canada in a half-century, although there are signs that its prevalence is beginning to increase.

In New Hampshire, the deer tick is the species most capable of transmitting the virus to people.

Deer ticks also carry Lyme disease. A tick must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours, and more likely 48 hours, before transmitting the Lyme virus, but the Powassan virus apparently can be transmitted more quickly.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).