Powassan virus is a potentially fatal illness, which is spread by ticks and has no known treatments. The Powassan tick-borne virus was first found in the Bridgeport and Brandford areas of Connecticut. The infection is spread in much the same manner as Lyme disease and has similar symptoms. The virus can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and meningitis.
The Powassan virus symptoms include headache, nausea, and fever. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station head, Dr. Theodore Andreadis, said that once a person has contracted the Powassan virus, there is not treatment for the disease, which has proved deadly for some.
“These ticks will transmit this virus when they feed within a matter of hours, whereas with Lyme disease, for example, ticks generally have to feed up to two days before they’re capable of transmitting it,” Dr. Andreadis said.
There are currently no reports of human Powassan virus cases in the New York Connecticut area. But, Dr. Andreadis points out that spring weather has only recently arrived and families, farmers, and ranchers will soon be heading into wooded areas. Regions and wooded areas, which are prone to Lyme disease-carrying ticks, will possibly also present a danger for the Powassan virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics indicate that many of the individuals who have contracted the Powassan virus do not exhibit any symptoms. The incubation period for the potentially deadly infection reportedly ranges from one week to one month.
About half of the survivors of the Powassan virus reportedly developed muscle wasting, recurring headaches, neurological symptoms, and memory problems, according to the CDC. In 2013, (latest statistics published) 12 human cases of the tick-borne disease were reported. Approximately 50 cases of the Powassan virus have been reported in the U.S. during the past decade.
Although the Powassan virus is spread like Lyme disease, many doctors reportedly feel that the disease recently found in Connecticut is far worse. Ticks commonly found around the Great Lakes region and the northeastern United States, have been found to often carry the both life-threatening and rare virus.
International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society representative, Dr. Daniel Cameron, had something to say about the Powassan virus. “The doctor just has to support you during the acute illness and hope that you survive,” Dr. Daniel Cameron explained. “You can get seizures, high fevers, stiff neck. It comes on so suddenly that it’s the kind of thing people go to the emergency room for.”
The Powassan virus ticks are reportedly more active during the spring, early summer, and mid-fall – the times of year Americans are most commonly working outdoors or enjoying Mother Nature.
Doctors suggest wearing bug spray, long sleeves, and long pants when outdoors, and avoiding wooded areas to curtail the threat of being infected with the Powassan virus – or Lyme disease. Checking for ticks once back inside is also suggested.