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Powassan Virus

What is Powassan virus?

Powassan virus is a rare, tick-borne virus. While still considered to be very rare, cases have been growing recently in the United States. Late spring all the way until mid-fall (tick season) is the worst time of year for this virus, and it is most common in the Great Lakes region and northeast.

What are the symptoms of Powassan virus?

Not everybody with this virus develops symptoms, so some people may never know they have it. For those who do experience the virus’ effects, they may appear anywhere from one week to one month following a tick bite. At first, symptoms include headache, weakness, fever, and vomiting. As time passes, one may develop a severe case. This brings symptoms like meningitis, encephalitis, confusion, seizures, coordination loss, and trouble speaking. 

One of every ten people with a severe case passes away, and half of those who survive handle long-term symptoms, such as memory issues, loss of muscle and mass, and headaches.

What causes Powassan virus?

Infected ticks (most commonly the squirrel, deer, or groundhog tick) spread the Powassan virus after feeding on infected rodents. However, humans are dead end hosts, meaning that a tick will not pick up the virus from an infected human. The only way a human can spread it to another human is via blood transfusion. 

How is Powassan virus diagnosed?

Doctors will diagnose this virus after noticing the characteristic symptoms, asking about possible tick exposure, and testing the blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). 

What are the treatments for Powassan virus?

There is no specific medication for Powassan virus, nor is there a way to prevent it. Hospitalization is often necessary for severe cases. 

The best way to prevent this virus is to avoid tick bites. Use insect repellent, wear clothes that cover your skin, and make sure to check yourself, your gear, and your pets for any ticks that might have followed you home.

Where can I find out more about Powassan virus?


Powassan Virus Articles