The United States are facing quite a scare as a high concentration of a tick-related illness were reported over the past few months. Known as the Powassan Virus, this has been described as something “worse than Lyme Disease” for its damaging effects on the human body.
What is the Powassan Virus and How Does It Spread?
The Powassan virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. This species is better known for carrying Lyme. Most of the current cases have been reported in the Northeastern United States. Those who visit bushy, wooded areas may often be at high risk.
Dr. Adalja, an infectious diseases expert at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, notes that the silence of this illness is worrying. He explained that some people might contract the Powassan and know nothing about it. This can happen if they present no symptoms of the disease.
Experts say that the original carriers of the virus are the ticks Ixodes Cookei and Ixodes Marxi. Recently, the Powassan found its way into the far more common species Ixodes Scapularis or the deer tick. This has resulted in the recent rise in cases, along with one woman’s death.
Once the virus has incubated, patients may experience dizziness, headaches, loss of coordination or vomiting, among others. In severe cases, brain/spinal swelling may occur and cause irreversible damage.
“Of those infected, 15 percent who experience symptoms will die and over half will live with permanent neurological damage that will not resolve,” says Dr. Jennifer Lyons.
She is the chief of the Division of Neurological Infections at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Health experts recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, as well as insect repellent, especially when trekking wooded areas. This could help ward off ticks and the diseases they may be carrying.
While the threat may not be over soon, doctors are hopeful that prevention techniques and awareness can halt the disease. If people take steps to avoid the source of transmission, this could be stopped in its tracks. This outbreak stresses the importance of protecting individuals and families from the dangers of ticks.
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