According to Fox News, the Connecticut Department of Public Health recently shared that there was at least one diagnosed case of Powassan virus within the state. Typically, it is rare for humans to become infected with this virus. In fact, only 20 cases were reported to the CDC in 2020 within the entire country; this marks Connecticut’s 13th case in the last 6 years. As the prevalence is increasing, it is important to learn about what the Powassan virus is and how you can avoid contracting it.
The current diagnosed case in Connecticut is a man in his 50s. After experiencing a tick bite a month before, he began feeling ill. He required hospitalization but is now doing better.
So where is the Powassan virus found? Over the last 10-12 years, the Powassan virus has been found in states such as North Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Maine, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, among a few others.
How is this virus spread? This viral infection is spread through a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. These ticks are also common spreaders of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.
When is the virus spread? The virus is most commonly spread in late spring, early summer, and/or mid-fall.
Is Powassan virus fatal? In some cases, yes. For a majority of people, however, Powassan virus is not fatal. In fact, a large number of infected individuals have no symptoms. But this virus is fatal for around 10% of individuals who contract this illness.
Who is most at-risk? The people most at-risk include those who work outside, particularly in areas where this virus is more prevalent. Additionally, those who engage in recreational activities such as hiking, camping, or swimming in these areas are also at a heightened risk.
What are some tips on preventing tick bites? Stay on marked trails while hiking. Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs, and try and cover up any areas or holes where ticks could gain access. Shower and wash your clothes on high heat after returning from outdoor activities. Check your body for ticks, especially in crevices of your skin. Use insect repellant that has DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
About Powassan Virus
The Powassan virus is named for the first place it was discovered – Powassan, Ontario. It is spread through the bites of infected Ixodes scapularis ticks. Unlike other tick-borne illnesses, this virus transmits very fast. In fact, individuals can get infected as soon as 15 minutes following an infected tick bite. In rarer cases, this virus can also be spread through blood transfusion, shares the CDC. After being bitten by the ticks, symptoms manifest anywhere from one week to one month following infection. Initial symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Overall weakness
However, some individuals may develop a more severe disease. As symptoms progress, people may experience:
- Speech and memory problems
- Loss of coordination
- Encephalitis (when the virus spreads to the central nervous system)
- Meningitis (when the virus spreads to the central nervous system)