Published: Tue, May 09, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Rare, deadly tick-borne disease Powassan found

Rare, deadly tick-borne disease Powassan found

There is now no treatment for the virus, which according to the CDC kills around 10% of people who become sick.

Tick season is here and experts warn this year could be one of the worst yet.

Individuals have a higher risk of tick bites and tickborne diseases from May through July. Twenty years ago, Paskewitz would tell her students there'd be 400 to 500 cases each year in Wisconsin.

The majority of cases are in Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin, according to CDC data. "So that's a large increase".

In the past decade, the CDC reports around 75 cases of Powassan virus. "Ticks that spread disease to people can have up to 2- to 3-year lifecycles, and many factors can affect their numbers, including temperature, rainfall, humidity, and the amount of available hosts for the ticks to feed on, such as mice, deer, and other animals", they note.

"So it is a rare disease". "Unfortunately, it is a disease that can often have pretty severe impact".

Dr. Jeannina Smith, an infectious disease specialist at UW Health, explains that Powassan "attacks the brain itself, causing inflammation and infections of the brain". They also advise that long-term neurological problems may occur.

Of the 75 reported cases, 16 have taken place in NY, tied for the second most of any state.

If you do find you have been exposed to a tick, he said it was not necessary to immediately contact a doctor unless you notice symptoms.

Both Lyme disease and Powassan virus present with flu-like symptoms and can progress to confusion and difficulty speaking.

To avoid bites, keep arms and legs covered with long clothing when out in the countryside, use insect repellent and reduce time spent in areas where ticks live, in particular, long grass, humid undergrowth, prairies, meadows, and fields.

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