If Lyme disease, the tick-borne illness that brings with it flu-like symptoms and appears with the sign of a bull’s-eye rash wasn’t bad enough, there’s a new nasty illness being spread by ticks. Powassan virus is transmitted by ticks and while it is rare—diagnosed less than 50 times in the past 10 years—it can bring about neurological infections.
Lyme disease is the most common of tick-borne illnesses and those cursed with the illness report flu-like symptoms and often have a rash that can sometimes take the shape of a bull’s-eye. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe somewhere around 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, but many cases go unreported.
Unlike Lyme disease though which normally requires a tick to be on its host for 24 hours, Powassan can transmitted in as little as an hour of the tick biting its host and often times people who are infected show no symptoms. The symptoms that do appear usually show themselves in the form of severe headache, fever, vomiting, and confusion.
Now, there’s probably no need to barricade yourself indoors all summer out of fear over contracting Powassan from a tick. Less than 10% of deer ticks are thought to carry the virus, and only around 10% of the few cases of people contracting the virus have resulted in death.
Jorge Parada, MD, medical adviser for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) from Loyola University, advises that the best way to fight the disease is to simply take the proper precautions against it.
“So even when the weather’s good and you want to go out and hike in shorts, the truth is, long pants and tucking your pants into your socks will protect you from tick bites,” he says. “Insect repellents also helps guard against ticks (20 percent DEET at the minimum), and if you’re out hiking, make sure to stay away from vegetation.”
Unfortunately, it’s also predicted that the tick population will be on the rise this summer. The heavy snowfall didn’t kill the little buggers, it only made them stronger and shielded them from the frigid temperatures. Researchers believe this slight by Mother Nature will likely lead to an increase in the tick population this summer and with that comes the threat of Lyme disease and other tick-borne viruses. Ugh.