Summer is just around the corner, with its promises of baseball and barbecues, but for those of us who like to venture into the woods, it also means the beginning of tick season. While you can get a tick bite in any season, these troublesome bugs are much more active in the months of May and June.
It’s a well-known fact that ticks can transmit Lyme disease, but now health officials are warning that an even worse tick-borne illness is on the rise. Powassan virus may be rarer but is also much more debilitating. Scroll down to see why it’s considered more dangerous than Lyme disease, find out the symptoms, and how to protect yourself this summer.
10. Everyone Is At Risk
Powassan virus doesn’t discriminate. Newborns, 20-somethings, the middle-aged, elderly, those who are immunocompromised, anyone who is bitten by an infected tick is at risk of infection. Liam Phillips, shown above, was infected at age 5 months and is one of the youngest to survive. Infections are most likely to occur when ticks are more active, so doctors expect to see more cases in late spring, early summer, and mid-fall.
9. It’s Not A New Thing
The Powassan virus was first discovered in Ontario, Canada in 1958. A child developed encephalitis from a virus that had never been seen before. Scientists named it after the town where the child lived. It’s been suggested that the virus might have been found in far eastern Russia as well. Check out #8 to see why doctors are growing more concerned about it now.
8. Blame Global Warming
According to the CDC, most of the reported cases of Powassan virus over the past decade have been in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region. With two consecutive warm winters in that region, they are predicting that there will be larger numbers of ticks and higher infection rates among them.
7. It’s Frighteningly Fast
The greater number of ticks isn’t the only reason doctors are concerned about seeing more cases of Powassan, though. In animal studies, it was discovered that the Powassan virus could be transmitted from the tick to host after only about 15 minutes of attachment. For Lyme disease, it takes 24 hours. Go to the next slide for what that means for humans.
6. Scary Statistics
The Powassan virus in its most serious form can cause encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain, and about 15% of those who are infected and have symptoms will not survive. Of those who do pull through, at least 50% are left with permanent neurological problems that will never resolve.