With this summer comes warnings about a rare, and potentially life-threatening tick-borne disease called Powassan. The virus is carried and transmitted by three types of ticks (including the deer tick that transmits Lyme). If you have never checked yourself after a walk during tick season, it’s time to start now because everyone is at risk for Powassan. Infections are most likely during late spring, early summer, and mid-fall when ticks are most active. There are currently no known treatments for Powassan.

Scientists believe that both Powassan and Lyme disease are on the rise.

In the last decade, there have been 75 cases reported in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region. While no one can know how many people will be infected this year, the warmer winter we experienced will lead to an increased tick population. My editor lives in Michigan and with their warmer than normal winter, there was only one month they didn’t pull a tick off of their dog (they live on an old tree farm).
One other thing about Powassa, about 15% of patients who become infected and have symptoms don’t survive and of the survivors, “at least 50% will have long-term neurological damage that is not going to resolve.”
Most people who get bitten will never show symptoms. Those who do normally become sick a few days or week after the bite with the most common symptom being fever and headache.

From the article:

“The unlucky few who develop a more serious illness will do so very quickly over the next couple of days. You start to develop difficulties with maintaining your consciousness and your cognition. … You may develop seizures. You may develop inability to breathe on your own.

Standard treatment includes intravenous fluids, though antiviral medications, systemic corticosteroids, and other drugs have been tried in some patients.”

A bad tick season ahead

Goudarz Molaei, a research scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, predicts we will see more new Lyme disease infections in the coming months “due to larger numbers of ticks and higher infection rates among them.” And while each year there are around 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme across the US, this year it’s been much higher. He said, “This year so far, we’ve received hundreds of ticks. Since April 1, we’ve received nearly 1,000 ticks. In one day, 50% of ticks were infected.”

First discovered in Ontario, Canada in 1958, it was named after the town where the first known infection, a child who came down with an unspecified encephalitis, lived.

The best thing to do is prevent against all tick bites, period. This is best done by totally avoiding high, brushy areas in the woods. However, if you can’t avoid those areas or don’t want to, make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, use an insect repellent, and do a tick check as soon as you get inside. No tick bite, no Powassan.

Source: CNN