Powassan Virus: New, Deadly Tick Spread Disease Scaring Doctors

CBS Local – There are a few drawbacks to the calendar shifting to the summer months. However, it does mean an influx in ticks and their infections, like Lyme’s disease. And now doctors are finding a new, potentially fatal disease: Powassan virus.

Powassan virus is even more serious than Lyme’s, as it causes inflammation to the brain. For the reported cases, 15% of those infected have died and another 50% have had some form of a neurological disability. As of right now, there’s no cure.

Symptoms include: fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures.

“About 15% of patients who are infected and have symptoms are not going survive,” Dr. Jennifer Lyons, chief of the division of neurological and inflammatory diseases at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, via CNN. “Of the survivors, at least 50% will have long-term neurological damage that is not going to resolve.”

The recent proliferation of Powassan virus cases is that deer ticks have begun carrying it, and deer ticks bite more regularly than other ticks.

“There are some experimental therapies we try when somebody comes in and they get here early enough and we get the therapy started early enough, but we have no idea if any of that works,” Lyons said.

Thankfully, the ticks carrying the disease are not a majority. Far from it. According a report out of Maine, 7% of ticks carry the disease and another from New York that found about 1-2%. Compared to Lyme’s disease, where it’s figured that about 20% of all ticks carry it.

As of right now, there have been no reported cases that haven’t come from a tick bite. So, this disease can only infect you if you’ve been bitten by a tick.

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