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Potential role of deer tick virus in Powassan encephalitis cases in Lyme disease-endemic areas of New York, U.S.A.

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Abstract

Powassan virus, a member of the tick-borne encephalitis group of flaviviruses, encompasses 2 lineages with separate enzootic cycles. The prototype lineage of Powassan virus (POWV) is principally maintained between Ixodes cookei ticks and the groundhog (Marmota momax) or striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), whereas the deer tick virus (DTV) lineage is believed to be maintained between Ixodes scapularis ticks and the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). We report 14 cases of Powassan encephalitis from New York during 2004-2012. Ten (72%) of the patients were residents of the Lower Hudson Valley, a
Lyme disease-endemic area in which I. scapularis ticks account for most human tick bites. This finding suggests that many of these cases were caused by DTV rather than POWV. In 2 patients, DTV infection was confirmed by genetic sequencing. As molecular testing becomes increasingly available, more cases of Powassan encephalitis may be determined to be attributable to the DTV lineage.

Emerg Infect Dis. 2013 Dec;19(12):1926-33. doi: 10.3201/eid1912.130903.

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