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Powassan virus and ticks: What you need to know

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Enjoying outdoor activities can often mean finding yourself in areas with tall grass or in wooded areas where pests reside. Ticks, and especially deer ticks, are notorious for living in these areas, but also for spreading tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. Unfortunately, deer ticks have also been reported for spreading another disease of late: the Powassan virus.

Awareness surrounding the Powassan virus is important because of the damage it can cause. But it’s important to note that with the right preventative steps, the Powassan virus can be avoided altogether. Read on to learn about what the Powassan virus is, along with the symptoms and how to protect yourself with prevention tips. Enjoy the great outdoors this season without worrying about the dangers of ticks.

Discover what a tick is and how they can spread disease.

What is the Powassan virus?

If you haven’t heard of the Powassan virus, you’re not alone because the virus is quite rare. You may remember hearing about the virus back in 2017 when several cases developed throughout the United States. But with only 75 cases having been reported between 2008 and 2017, this disease doesn’t have anywhere close to the name recognition of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness and according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year. So if there are so few cases, why is the Powassan virus worth noting? 

The main difference between the Powassan virus and Lyme disease is the time it takes to receive the virus and the intensity of the virus.  The Powassan virus can be transmitted from tick to host in as little as 15 minutes. Lyme bacteria typically takes 24 hours, even if symptoms of the two manifest themselves at roughly the same time. Furthermore, 10% of individuals who are infected with Powassan won’t survive. Of the survivors, roughly 50% will have long-term neurological damage as a result of the Powassan virus.

Powassan virus symptoms

Most people infected with the virus don’t show symptoms but those that do may experience the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle soreness/weakness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

If infected, these symptoms would manifest themselves anywhere from a week to a month after the infection. Unlike Lyme disease, there are no treatments or vaccines to fight the Powassan virus. Seek medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms listed above to prevent long term damage. The biggest cause of concern surrounding the Powassan virus is that there is still no cure. If caught early enough, Lyme disease is very treatable. Conversely, the Powassan virus is more likely to cause significant damage to one’s nervous system. Doctors are trying experimental therapies and standard treatment options such as antiviral medications to treat individuals who may have the virus, but so far, there is no successful vaccine or treatment available.

Tick prevention is key

Because of the speed at which the Powassan virus spreads and the lack of cure, one of the best ways you can protect yourself and others is by preventing ticks in the first place. Some practical tips for preventing ticks are:

  • Avoid high brush areas
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing when outdoors
  • Apply repellent, like DEET, when outdoors

If you have been in an area with high brush and haven’t taken precautionary steps, you should check for ticks immediately. Check areas of exposed skin for ticks that are latched on to your body, and remove ticks as recommended by the CDC. Being able to prevent a disease from spreading right away could be the difference between developing serious health issues down the road and remaining healthy. 

Professional tick control

Avoid tick-borne illnesses like the Powassan virus and Lyme disease with the help of your local Ehrlich pest specialist. We will devise a comprehensive tick control solution plan to keep your family and pets safe from tick-borne illnesses. Call 888-986-2074 or contact us online to learn more!

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John West

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