With predictions that this year will have an extremely heavy tick season, it’s important to know all of the facts about the harmful diseases ticks can carry. The Powassan virus is a rare tick-borne disease, affecting about 7 people in the United States a year. However, we may see a rise in this disease in the coming months, along with other tick-borne diseases.
In November, Connecticut had its first known victim of the Powassan tick virus, a 5-month-old baby. After being misdiagnosed many times, Liam, now almost 1, is making a good recovery.
Here’s what you need to know to protect your family from the Powassan virus:
- The virus is rare, but instances have been increasing in recent years. These cases occur primarily in the late spring, early summer and mid-fall when ticks are most active.
- It only takes 15 minutes for a tick to transmit the Powassan virus. Other diseases, like Lyme, can take 24 to 48 hours or more to be transmitted by an attached tick. Make sure to always check your children for ticks immediately after they’ve been playing outside.
- Many people do not show symptoms right away. Symptoms can arise anywhere from one week to one month after the tick bite, and can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems, including inflammation of the brain and meningitis, can occur if not treated right away.
- There is no specific medication or treatment to prevent or cure Powassan virus disease. If you believe someone you know has been infected, they should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible for an evaluation and diagnosis.
- Usually, people infected with a severe case of the Powassan virus need to be hospitalized. Treatment may include respiratory support, intravenous fluids, and medications to reduce swelling in the brain.
- Most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. Wisconsin, Upstate New York and Minnesota have had the most reported cases of the Powassan virus. Any state where Powassan has been identified is at an increased risk of infection.
Now more than ever, it’s important to take action to prepare your family for tick season. Read our tips on how to do this here.