A potentially deadly tick borne disease known as the Powassan (POW) virus has emerged and should be of concern to residents of Long Island. Although relatively few cases have appeared, the symptoms and consequences of POW can be severe. The disease can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and/ or meningitis. Symptoms may show up as fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures. Even more disturbing: up to half of survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems and up to 10% of POW virus encephalitis cases are fatal. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe POW virus illnesses often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain. However, many people who become infected do not display any symptoms. The onset of symptoms from the time of the tick bite can vary from a week to a month. There are no vaccines or medications to prevent or treat POW virus infections. Cases of severe POW illnesses often need to be hospitalized and may need respiratory support, intravenous fluids, and medications to reduce swelling in the brain.
POW is related to West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and tick-borne encephalitis viruses. The disease is transmitted from the bite of an infected tick. A real danger is that POW can be transmitted by a biting tick almost immediately, in as little as 15 minutes. By comparison, Lyme disease is not transmitted for as long as 48 hours, even while the tick is fastened to you. Thankfully, humans don’t develop concentrations of the POW virus in their bloodstreams enough to infect other feeding ticks, so we are dead-end hosts for the disease.
The only defense against the POW virus is to avoid being bitten by potentially disease carrying ticks, including deer ticks and lone-star ticks. We recommend treating your property regularly to keep the tick population down as well as common sense techniques such as checking yourself, your children and grandchildren, and your pets immediately after outside activities which may bring you into contact with underbrush and other tick habitats.
Please call us ASAP to arrange treatments and take great care when walking in the woods or around shrubs and bushes or the perimeter of your property.
Link to CDC information page: https://www.cdc.gov/powassan/