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Rare Tick Disease: Wausaukee man battles for his life

Rare tick disease: Wausaukee man battles for his life
Posted at 6:34 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 20:37:16-04

A Wausaukee man is battling for his life after a tick bit him this summer.

Since August, 71-year-old Al Dennis hasn't been able to walk or talk.

Doctors said the tick that bit him was carrying an extremely rare disease and it was not Lyme Disease, but was the Powassan virus.

Rare tick disease: Wausaukee man battles for his life

“It was like ten at night, he got up to use the bathroom. He fell down in the hallway, he was having a seizure and he hasn’t moved since,” said Betty Dennis, Al’s wife. “He’s been hospitalized for 86 days now.”

All of this was a result of a tick bite.

Bellin Health Infectious Disease Doctor Michael Landrum explained that the Powassan virus is extremely rare in Wisconsin.

“I think since 2003, here in the State of Wisconsin there have been something around about 50 cases,” said Dr. Landrum. “It tends to cause more of a neurological disease or infection, so it can invade the spinal cord and the brain tissue and cause either meningitis or an infection of the brain which is called encephalitis.”

Rare tick disease: Wausaukee man battles for his life

Over the last few weeks, Al has started to become more engaged cognitively, but there was a point in time where Betty thought she had lost her husband for good.

“We’ve been married 52 years,” said Betty. “Yeah, I didn’t think he was going to make it. At first I thought ‘he won’t get through this’. But now we’re seeing good signs. So it is like a miracle, we’re seeing him come back.”

With the very little Al can speak, when asked what he is most excited to do after recovering, Al responded and said he couldn’t wait to walk.

While he still has a long road to recovery, his wife hopes others will see this as a warning to be careful during tick season.

“It was kind of shocking what one little tick could do to your brain, we couldn’t even believe it and that’s the part I want people to be aware of how dangerous this can be and to be careful,” Betty said.

Betty and her family have set up a Go Fund Me to help with their medical expenses as Al continues to receive medical help.

To learn more about the Powassan virus, click here.

For more information on how to protect yourself from ticks, click here.