What is the Powassan Virus?
The Powassan virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Although relatively uncommon, the number of people infected with the Powassan virus has risen in recent years. Powassan virus was initially discovered from the brain of a small boy who died of encephalitis in the town of Powassan, Ontario, hence the name of the virus. The Powassan virus disease is most common in those who are exposed to tick-infested brushy or woody settings. The majority of afflicted people in the United States live in northern states including Massachusetts (including Cape Cod), New York, New Jersey, and the Great Lakes region, where ticks are most active from late spring to early fall.
Ticks live in grass, forested areas, and brush, so seeing them in your yard is not uncommon. They don’t usually enter homes, but they may bite if you walk through where they’re waiting, and once they bite, they latch on and don’t let go.
What Are the Symptoms?
Tick bites can cause a variety of illnesses, but most people associate Lyme disease with tick bites. Many individuals who have been infected with the Powassan virus do not show any symptoms. People with Powassan virus symptoms, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a week to a month to feel sick after being bitten by a tick. Fever, headache, vomiting, and weakness are some of the usual symptoms. The Powassan virus symptoms can be very serious, such as an infection of the brain (encephalitis) or the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures are some of the most severe symptoms. According to reports, one out of every ten people suffering from severe symptoms dies. Approximately half of those who survive a serious illness face long-term health issues, such as recurring headaches, loss of muscle mass and strength and memory problems.
The patient’s history; particularly a tick bite and physical examination, as well as ongoing signs and symptoms, are used to make the diagnosis. If the Powassan virus disease is suspected, blood and spinal fluid tests may reveal antibodies to the virus, allowing the diagnosis to be confirmed. If this rare disease is detected, an infectious disease specialist is frequently consulted.
Nymphs, or young ticks, are the size of a poppy seed. Ticks with black legs are about the size of a sesame seed. Ticks, both nymphs and adults, can spread diseases, although nymphs are usually the most dangerous. They are compulsive feeders and so small that they might be difficult to spot on the body unless you look closely. When checking for ticks, keep in mind that ticks prefer places where they can hide. When checking for ticks, keep in mind that ticks prefer warm, damp environments. Always examine behind the ears, the back of the knees, the armpits, the groin, the scalp, the back of the neck, and the back of the neck. If you locate a tick on your body, use fine-point tweezers to remove it as soon as possible. The tick’s body should not be squeezed or twisted; instead, grab it tight to your skin and pull it straight out with constant pressure.
How to Avoid Getting Infected
It is critical to avoid tick exposure in order to avoid contracting Powassan or other tick-borne disorders. When outside, remember to tuck your pants into your socks, stay on well-lit paths, apply insect repellents, dress in light-colored clothing, shower after being outside, and check your pets and family members at the end of the day. Ticks should be removed as soon as possible. If a tick is infected and the longer it remains connected to your skin, the greater the chance of illness. Powassan-infected ticks can transfer the virus in about an hour, whereas Lyme disease-infected ticks can take up to 36 hours to transmit the infection.
Ticks are also especially dangerous to dogs who spend more time outside than most other pets. We recommend that dog owners see their physicians to see if their pets will benefit from a Lyme disease vaccine or other tick prevention items. If your dog spends time outside, check it for ticks on a regular basis and remove any that you find. To check for minor bumps, the CDC recommends lightly stroking your fingertips through the dog’s fur. Examine the dog’s ears, eyelids, collar, beneath their front legs, between their back legs, between their toes, and around their tail. Ticks should be removed with fine-tipped tweezers, gripped as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pulled steadily upward as well.
Once infected with the Powassan virus, there is no specific therapy. Supportive care, rest, and fluids to prevent dehydration are all part of the treatment plan. Reduce your risks of being bitten by a tick by taking precautions. Ticks are most active in the summer, from late spring to early September. Ticks can also be found outside at any time when the temperature is above freezing.
Ticks in treated areas of your yard might be reduced by using insecticides. Although spraying will not lessen your chance of infection, it is still best to maximize all opportunities in protecting yourselves and have the exteriors of your home sprayed. Always call your local pest control business before using pesticides since they are experts on how to follow pesticide label instructions and know when and how to apply pesticides.