Gansevoort man dies from Powassan Virus over a month ago, family speaks out

July 13, 2017 12:33 PM

GANSEVOORT - Charles Smith was an avid fisherman and hunter, proudly displaying his catch in his Gansevoort home.

"You never knew what it was, we always called it mystery meat you never knew what it was in your spaghetti sauce, it was mystery meat," Charles' daughter, Stephanie said.

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A heart attack in 2001 caused him to lose sight in one eye. 

Plaque build up led to the amputation of his right leg and part of his left foot but still, he kept active.

"Fishing trips to Lake Ontario, I mean he'd go out by himself, take the 26 foot boat," Charles' son, Stephen said.

So, on April 28th, when Charles noticed a tick under his skin on the inside of his elbow while at home, he didn't think anything of it, but his daughter forced him to go see a doctor.

"He said it's nothing to worry about, no bulls eye it's an atypical tick bite because it didn't measure 5 cm," Stephanie explained.

Ten days later, on May 11th, Charles awoke with chills and had a 104 degree temperature. 

Doctors at Glens Falls Hospital tested for Lyme disease but the result came back negative. 

They believed an enlarged kidney was the cause so they operated to insert a stent but after surgery, Charles deteriorated, becoming paralyzed from the neck down.

"He was pretty much gone, the bus was being driven but we didn't know where the bus driver was," Stephanie explained.

At the family's insistence doctors tested for every possible virus including swine flu since Charles kept pigs behind his house. 

They finally got a positive hit for the Powassen Virus.

"There's no cure for Powassen. Your immune system has to fight that off and his immune system,, after being three weeks in the hospital," Stephen said.

Stephanie wanted to know more about the virus so she called the Saratoga County Health Department but they wouldn't confirm any cases of Powassen to her. 

There's nothing listed on their website about Powassan, either.

Then on Wednesday, more than a month after Charles' death, an official confirmation of the virus from the New York State Department of Health.

"Why has it taken us to to contact you to make people aware?" Stephanie asked.

The Department of Health says the young, elderly and those who have a compromised immune system are more susceptible to harsher symptoms of Powassan's.

It can take up to four weeks for test results to confirm the virus is present and you have to test specifically for it, so tell your doctor if you spent time outside and have symptoms of headache, fever, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulty and seizures.

There is no cure for the Powassan virus but you can treat the symptoms.


Karen Tararache

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