Experts warn of increases in tick-borne Powassan virus

Summer is nearly here, and it’s bringing fears of a rare tick-borne disease called Powassan. This potentially life-threatening virus is carried and transmitted by three types of ticks, including the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease.

Over the past decade, 75 cases have been reported in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though no one can say how many infections will occur this year, warmer winters have led to an increased tick population, so experts predict rising tick-borne infections of many types.

Everyone is at risk for Powassan: Newborns, 20-somethings, the middle-aged, the elderly and the immuno-compromised. Anyone bitten by an infected tick can get it. Infections are most likely during late spring, early summer and mid-fall, when ticks are most active.

About 15% of patients who are infected and have symptoms are not going survive. Of the survivors, at least 50% will have long-term neurological damage that is not going to resolve.

Scientists also believe Powassan is on the rise based on studies that have identified an increasing number of infections in deer. Similarly, Lyme is showing increasing numbers.

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