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Man Dies of Brain Inflammation Caused by Deer Tick Virus
Date:5/13/2009

Scientists believe the case could be the first of its kind

WEDNESDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- In what scientists say might be the first case of its kind, a new report details the story of a 62-year-old man in New York state who died last year of meningoencephalitis, apparently after being bitten by a deer tick infected with deer tick virus.

This appears to be the first reported human illness from the virus, although the organism was isolated in the brain of a person in Ontario, Canada. In this instance, there was no description of illness associated with that infection, said Norma P. Tavakoli, lead author of the paper appearing in the May 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Deer tick virus encephalitis [inflammation of the brain] is rare, but diagnostic testing is not routinely performed, so there could be cases out there we're actually missing," said Tavakoli, who is a research scientist with the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health in Albany. "Certainly, during early spring to fall in areas where infected ticks have been reported, testing should be done."

"It is quite a rare virus," said Dr. Geoffrey Weinberg, a professor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "I would advise people not to be overly concerned. Ticks are less commonly infected with this than with Lyme disease and, even in Lyme, Conn., a minority of ticks are infected with Lyme disease. Also, the odds are 300-to-one that someone infected with the virus will develop encephalitis. The vast majority have no symptoms at all."

For the average outdoorsman, precautions already recommended to avoid contracting Lyme disease -- also transmitted via deer ticks -- should decrease the odds of getting the deer tick virus as well, according to the study.

"Whether or not this will become a real problem, I don't think anybody knows. O
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