A major consideration in the summer months, particularly for those who enjoy exploring the great outdoors, is tick safety. These little creatures have long been associated with spreading Lyme disease, a chronic disease characterized by symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue and fever. Fewer people are aware, however, tick bites can transmit a number of other diseases. One rare but particularly dangerous tick-borne illness is the Powassan virus. This article provides a breakdown of some crucial facts about this potentially fatal ailment.
A closer look at the Powassan Virus
In the same vein as Lyme disease, tick bites transmit POW. CNN reported Lyme-disease-carrying deer ticks are able to transmit POW, alongside two other species of ticks. The ticks that spread the illnesses are located primarily in the northern half of the U.S., specifically in the North East and around the Great Lakes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained. The name of the disease is derived from the location where it was first discovered - Powassun, Ontario.
Although incredibly rare - the CDC noted that in the past decade, there have been just 75 cases - POW can have severe consequences for personal health, and around 10 percent of the time patients die from the disease. Individuals of all ages are at risk.
The reason the illness has the potential to be so dangerous is that it can attack the central nervous system, and in chronic cases swelling of the brain can occur. Consequently, those experiencing severe POW symptoms are often hospitalized. Survivors of POW have a risk of ongoing neurologic complications, even after the primary virus is gone. However, that for many people POW is a minor illness, with very mild signs symptoms. It is also common for the disease to be asymptomatic in some people.
Signs and symptoms of chronic POW which necessitate immediate medical attention include: vomiting, weakness, fatigue, problems with speech, fever and headaches. Seizures and coordination problems may also occur, and meningitis and brain inflammation are a possibility.
Cases could be on the rise
According to a report from CNN, experts predict that cases of POW will likely increase this year and in the future due to the growing tick population. Cases of other tick-borne conditions, such as Lyme disease, will probably also grow. The expanding number of ticks is associated with the warming trend observed throughout recent winters in the North East and Great Lakes.