Wearing light-colored clothing, removing any ticks as soon as they are found and keeping pets free of ticks can also reduce the risk, Tavakoli added.
Deer tick virus is closely related to Powassan virus, which can also cause encephalitis and is also transmitted by way of the deer tick, according to background information in the study. Both are flaviviruses, a group that includes West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, dengue and yellow fever viruses, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Infection with one of these viruses sometimes causes severe illness, some combination of milder symptoms, or no illness at all. Deer ticks also transmit Lyme disease, which is now widespread in the United States.
In the New York case, a 62-year-old man from Putnam County, N.Y., arrived at a local hospital in spring of 2008 complaining of fatigue, fever, rash and muscle weakness.
Doctors first suspected West Nile virus, but analysis of tissue samples eventually came up positive for deer tick virus only.
The patient spent a good deal of time outdoors, owned horses and lived in a county with many reports of Lyme disease, indicating a large tick population. Although the man had not reported any tick bites, the time of the year was right for such an event, and many deer ticks are so small as to remain undetected.
Unfortunately, the man's condition continued to deteriorate, life support was withdrawn, and the man, who also had leukemia and therefore possibly a weakened immune system, died 17 days after he fell il
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