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Baby catches rare tick illness in Connecticut

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HARTFORD --  When Desiree Phillips rushed their 5-month-old baby to Connecticut Children's Medical Center last November, she feared for the worst.

Little Neal was vomiting and had developed a fever, followed by facial twitches, weakness on the right side then seizures.

Tests showed a serious infection but not meningitis and it wasn't mosquito season, so encephalitis was out. But when the family remembered pulling a tick off the boy's knee, A CCMC specialist suspected a rare disease called powassan.

Desiree said the tick they found on Neal had been there for about two to three hours and probably carried into the house from someone else's clothing.
While Lyme Disease can take up to 48 hours to transmit, an infected tick can transmit powassan in as little as 15 minutes.

The CDC in Atlanta confirmed the diagnosis making Neal's case the first human case of powassan ever in Connecticut.

Doctors gave Neal medicine to control the seizures, and his recovery took months. But he is now growing and developing normally and appears to be a lefty, which doctors attribute to the right side weakness brought on by the infection.

The specialist who treated little Neal said he thinks they may have had cases of powassan in Connecticut before that were not correctly diagnosed, because the proper tests were never performed. He said doctors need to think about testing for powassan when patients come in with encphalitis type symptoms.

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