Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals


If you are susceptible to tick bites, doctors are warning of another tick-borne virus that is considered worse than Lyme disease.

Powassan virus is considered rare, but it is more deadly than the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, “Today” reported.

There have only been 75 cases of it reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2006 and 2015, there were only 68 cases, with most being reported in Minnesota.

The most recent case, not part of the CDC’s statistical map, was a 5-month-old baby in Connecticut, “Today” reported.

Powassan has been found not only in the United States, but also Canada and Russia. The CDC warns that infection comes in usually the late spring, early summer or mid-fall when ticks are most active.

Officials have alerted areas where the virus has been found, saying that people who work outdoors or have recreational activities in those areas are at an increased risk.

According to the CDC, many people don’t develop symptoms when infected and that the incubation is between one week and one month. Symptoms of the virus which can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis, can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures. Half of those diagnosed and survive will have permanent neurological symptoms like headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems. The CDC says about 10 percent of the cases can be fatal.

Right now there are no vaccines or medications to treat the infection from the Powassan virus. Severe Powassan illness will need hospitalization, which could include respiratory support, intravenous fluids and medication to reduce brain swelling.

What is worrying some medical professionals is how fast the virus can be transmitted. Dr. Jennifer Lyons told “Today” that it can be transmitted in only 15 minutes, verses 24 hours that Lyme disease needs to be transmitted.

It was originally found in a tick that rarely bit humans, but has been found in deer ticks in recent years.

How to prevent tick bites

Experts with the CDC are recommending that anyone who could be exposed to ticks take the following precautions.

  • Avoid ticks by avoiding wooded or bushy areas with high grass.
  • Use insect repellents
    • DEET-containing repellents only last a few hours, but can be sprayed on the skin
    • Treat clothes and gear with permethrin, which can last through several washings
  • Find and remove ticks before they can bite and attach
    • Bathe within 2 hours of being outside to find and wash off ticks
    • Conduct a full-body tick check
    • Examine clothing, gear and pets


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