For people living in and around the Great Lakes and northeastern region of the U.S. may need to take more precautions before heading out for a hike in the woods. Ticks with the Powassan disease have increased over the past decade. Powassan may be rare, but this viral disease is severe enough to prompt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into issuing a warning. While no cases have been reported yet in northwestern Pennsylvania, experts are predicting that this summer may see more ticks with Powassan and other tick-borne diseases such as Lyme.
Ticks are small arachnids that live off the blood of animals, birds, and some reptiles and amphibians. They are found across the world but most found in warm and humid climates. They can carry diseases that affect humans and other animals. Lyme disease is one of the well-known tick-borne diseases. Others include Typhus; Rocky Mountain spotted fever; Colorado tick fever; or tick paralysis. The Powassan virus, named after the town in Ontario, killed the boy that it was first found. Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, and vomiting. If left untreated, the Powassan virus can cause swelling of the brain, killing them. According to Time, “about half…are left with permanent neurological problems.”
GoErie.com reported that Powassan and Lyme disease “could increase significantly.” Breanna Adams, with the Erie County Department of Health, said that “72 ticks [were] brought in this year.” Last year this figure was 45, with 27 ticks in 2015. Charlotte Berringer, R.N. and director of community health for the Erie Health Department said that people with tick bites should seek immediate “medical treatment.” and while the Powassan virus does not have a cure, the symptoms can be treated. CNN reported that treatments for the Powassan virus include IV fluids, “antiviral medications, corticosteroids, and other drugs.”
To avoid tick bites, people need to protect themselves by wearing insect repellant; inspecting clothing and skin after walking or swimming outside; wearing long pants long-sleeved shirts; showering within an hour of being outdoors, and placing clothing in the dryer to kill any remaining insects. Daniel Pastula, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver, said to CNN that to prevent against “Powassan or any other tick-borne virus is to prevent against all tick bites.” He went on to say that the best way to steer clear of tick bites is to avoid “high brushy areas whenever you’re in the woods.”
By Cheryl Werber