Powassan Virus Disease in the United States, 2006–2016
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Powassan Virus Disease in the United States, 2006–2016

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  • Alternative Title:
    Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis
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    Powassan virus (POWV) is a tick-borne flavivirus that causes rare, but often severe, disease in humans. POWV neuroinvasive disease was added to the U.S. nationally notifiable disease list in 2001 and non-neuroinvasive disease was added in 2004. The only previous review of the epidemiology of POWV disease in the United States based on cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covered the period from 1999 through 2005.


    We describe the epidemiology and clinical features of laboratory-confirmed POWV disease cases reported to CDC from 2006 through 2016.


    There were 99 cases of POWV disease reported during the 11-year period, including 89 neuroinvasive and 10 non-neuroinvasive disease cases. There was a median of 7 cases per year (range: 1–22), with the highest numbers of cases reported in 2011 (n=16), 2013 (n=15) and 2016 (n=22). Cases occurred throughout the year but peaked in May and June. Cases were reported primarily from northeastern and north-central states. Overall, 72 (73%) cases were in males and the median age was 62 years (range: 3 months – 87 years). Of the 11 (11%) cases who died, all were aged >50 years. The average annual incidence of neuroinvasive POWV disease was 0.0025 cases per 100,000 persons.


    POWV disease can be a severe disease and has been diagnosed with increased frequency in recent years. However, this might reflect increased disease awareness, improved test availability, and enhanced surveillance efforts. Clinicians should consider POWV disease in patients presenting with acute encephalitis or aseptic meningitis who are resident in, or have traveled to, an appropriate geographic region.

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