Deadly Tick-borne Illness Threatening Saratoga County, Has Already Claimed One Man’s Life
Experts expected a rise in the tick population this summer, as well as an increase in tick-borne diseases. Unfortunately, these experts appear to have been correct, as a second case of the potentially fatal tick-borne Powassan virus was recently confirmed in Saratoga County, New York.
The first confirmed case in New York this year took the life of Charles Smith on June 8, 2017. That confirmation was the 25th case of the virus throughout New York since 2000. Now there has been a 26th case confirmed by the NYS DOH, with the infected Saratoga County resident currently hospitalized. A 27th case is currently under investigation in Saratoga County, and is expected to be confirmed by the Saratoga County Department of Health (NYS DOH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) soon.
In the past decade, there have only been 75 confirmed cases of Powassan in the northeastern United States, according to CDC. However, the surge in tick population is causing major concerns for those living in regions that have ticks.
Powassan Virus and How it Spreads
Powassan virus, also known as POW, is more aggressive than the commonly known Lyme disease and is potentially life-threatening. An RNA virus, meaning it has ribonucleic acid as its genetic material, Powassan virus belongs to the genus Flavivirus and is related to West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis.
Carried by three types of ticks including the common deer tick, Powassan virus is transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected tick. Humans are considered “dead end” hosts since not enough concentration of Powassan virus develops in our bloodstream to further spread to others.
Powassan virus is continued in a cycle between ticks and smaller rodents. The three main cycles in North America are Ixodes cookei and woodchucks, Ixodes marxi and squirrels, and Ixodes scapularis and white-footed mice. Ixodes scapularis — the deer tick — is the main distributer of Lyme disease, as they commonly bite humans.
Symptoms & Treatment of Powassan Virus
If you find a tick on your body, carefully remove it as soon as possible. Be sure to make sure the entire tick has been removed, especially if it has penetrated your skin. The longer a tick stays on your skin, the greater the chance of contracting a tick-borne illness like Powassan or Lyme.
One of the most concerning aspects of the Powassan virus is that many people who become infected do not develop any symptoms. Symptoms that have been reported include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures. Powassan virus can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and meningitis, which causes inflammation of the brain and surrounding membranes of the brain and spinal cord.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10 percent of Powassan virus encephalitis cases are fatal, with half of the survivors developing permanent neurological symptoms such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting, and memory problems.
Those infected with the virus are usually hospitalized, with the only treatment available being respiratory support, intravenous (IV) fluids, and medications to reduce swelling in the brain.
With no current vaccines or medication to treat or prevent POW virus, it is important to check yourself for ticks daily, especially when working or traveling outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. See your health care provider immediately if you or a family member suspects they have POW virus disease.
You can also learn more about professional tick treatments for your property by contacting our team of professionals at Catseye Pest Control.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
Wooded and high grass areas
Stay in the center of nature trails
Use screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios
Skin & Clothing
Repellent containing 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535
Clothing contained permethrin remains protective after washing
Light colored long sleeved shirts and long pants
Check for and Remove Ticks from Your Body
Full-body tick checks daily
Examine your clothing, as well as pets
Dry your clothes for 10 minutes after coming inside to kill ticks left on your clothing
Remove Standing Water
Drain garbage cans, gutters, buckets, pool covers, flower pots, etc.
Throw away old tires, bottles, cans, pots, and pans
Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowl every week
Maintain pool areas, empty plastic pools when not in use