Ticks can carry a number of disease-causing pathogens. If an infected tick bites a human, that human can then contract several illnesses. In many cases, people who contract these illnesses are asymptomatic, meaning that they don’t show any symptoms. However, in some cases, these illnesses can be dangerous or even deadly. Tick-borne illnesses spread by infected ticks can include babesiosis, Lyme disease, hard tick relapsing fever, and Powassan virus disease, among others. According to reporting from MSN, health officials confirmed that Powassan virus disease had been identified in Maine after someone passed away from the rare illness.
Last year, two Maine residents passed away from Powassan disease. However, historically, death rates in Maine have been low. The recent case prompts questions over whether people in Maine and across the country should be more attuned to the potential of tick-borne illnesses as our environment and landscapes change. Maine’s CDC believes that the case was contracted within the state. After experiencing several neurological issues, the infected individual visited the hospital, where they unfortunately succumbed to this virus.
If you are concerned about Powassan virus, there are steps you can take to mitigate and reduce the risk of contracting it. First, if you’re going into an area where ticks may be found, make sure to wear insect repellent. After being in these areas, make sure to inspect your body and clothes for any ticks; you can also have someone help with this inspection for areas you’re unable to see. If your pets have been playing outside, inspect them carefully for ticks. Finally, you can take steps like wearing longer sleeves and pants, tucking your pants into your socks, or wearing other protective gear to reduce the risk of tick bites.
About the Powassan Virus
Spread through the bites of infected deer or woodchuck ticks, Powassan virus is a rare, tick-borne viral illness that is often found in the Great Lakes and northeastern regions from late spring to mid-fall. Not everybody who is infected will show symptoms; in fact, most people will not. For those who do have symptoms, these symptoms typically take up to one month to appear after infection. These symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Difficulty speaking
- Fatigue and general weakness
- Confusion or disorientation
An estimated 10% of people with severe Powassan virus die from this illness. An additional 50% of people who survive experience lasting health issues, including headaches and memory loss. Right now, there are no cures or specific treatments for Powassan virus. Those infected will be encouraged to rest, stay hydrated, and receive other supportive care as needed.