Two bug ailments found in NH
State health officials said two bug-borne diseases made their first-ever appearance in New Hampshire last month — one originating from a tick, the other from a mosquito — and the diseases were found in the same unlucky person.
The patient was described as an adult male from Hillsborough County.
“Of course, that’s a very unlucky circumstance,” said Beth Daly, New Hampshire chief of infectious diseases. “Anyone who has outdoor exposure, which we all do, could potentially get more than one infection, but it’s highly unusual because both are so rare.”
The diseases are Powassan virus, an arbovirus that is spread by deer ticks, and Jamestown Canyon virus, which is spread by mosquitoes.
Although Powassan is the more well known of the two, this New Hampshire infection brings the total number found in the United States into the 60s, Daly said.
The discovery comes as New Hampshire enters August, the prime infection months for the common mosquito-borne diseases West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, or Triple E. Earlier this week, officials announced that West Nile virus was found in two mosquitoes trapped in Pelham.
And the peak time for infections of Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks, is mid-July.
“These (latest diseases) have been in the United States for a while and Powassan was found in Maine and Vermont previously so this is not entirely unexpected,” said Dr. José Montero, New Hampshire director of public health, in prepared remarks. “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.”
Daly said the patient had traveled in New England before getting sick, so it’s possible the bugs bit him outside the Granite State.
He had been suffering from serious symptoms of the disease. When blood tests didn’t detect West Nile, Triple E or Lyme disease, his physician sent a sample to the federal Centers for Disease Control, which detected Powassan and Jamestown Canyon.
Daly said there is no lab in New Hampshire that can test for the presence of the diseases.
The same steps used to prevent Lyme disease and West Nile apply to the latest diseases:
• Use an effective mosquito repellent that contains 30 percent DEET. Alternative repellents with picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon, eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide some protection.
• Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Eliminate pools of standing water.
• Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.
Manchester Health Director Tim Soucy said he’s not ready to start spraying. He said the city has sent in 175 samples of trapped mosquitoes for testing so far and nothing has been detected. He acknowledged the city does not test for Jamestown Canyon virus.
He said the city sprays based on a number of factors — the presence of the more serious Triple E, the number of infected mosquitoes, and human infections.
“It (spraying) is typically later in the summer because we’re waiting for viral amplification,” he said.
Illnesses associated with Powassan and Jamestown Canyon read like those of West Nile virus. Many people infected will experience either no symptoms or mild symptoms.But serious infections can lead to meningitis or encephalitis — serious inflations of the brain, spinal cord or associated membranes — which can be fatal.