Tick-Borne Powassan Virus Can Kill — How to Protect Yourself

1800ss getty rf tick.jpg
1800ss getty rf tick.jpg

By Cara Murez 

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Could 25, 2023 (HealthDay Information) – Robert Weymouth, 58, of Portland, Maine, died this 12 months due to a tick chunk.

You have seemingly heard of Lyme illness and the issues it may possibly trigger when handed to a human via the chunk of a deer tick. However Lyme isn’t the one tick-borne sickness within the woods.

Powassan virus — a uncommon and untreatable an infection — can be transmitted by ticks. That is the chunk that led to deadly problems within the case of this Maine truck driver.

Weymouth — the third Powassan dying since 2015 in Maine and the primary this 12 months — seemingly contracted the virus within the state, in response to Maine’s Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. He developed neurological signs and died within the hospital.

His widow, Annemarie Weymouth, is now warning others about defending themselves from the sickness.

“He was in there, however he could not transfer his physique. He might level to phrases on a board. He pointed to ‘scared,’ ‘afraid,’ ‘pissed off,'” Weymouth informed CBS Information.

True case numbers unknown

“As a result of it is comparatively uncommon to make the prognosis, there’s loads we do not know,” stated Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Yale College.

However this is what is thought:

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention obtained 189 studies of Powassan an infection between 2012 and 2021.

Most U.S. circumstances of Powassan virus occur within the Northeast and Nice Lakes areas. Maine had 4 circumstances final 12 months alone.

Although ticks are arachnids like spiders, the virus will not be so totally different from some viruses by which a mosquito is the vector, resembling dengue and Zika. Aside from its transmission by a tick, Powassan virus is “under no circumstances, form or type something like Lyme illness,” Shapiro stated.

Powassan virus is carefully associated to one thing referred to as tick-borne encephalitis, which is a virus significantly seen in Central Japanese Europe and Eurasia, Shapiro stated.

The Powassan virus severely impacts solely a small variety of individuals every year. Nevertheless it’s doable many others are asymptomatic or have minor or flu-like signs and aren’t recognized.

The virus obtained its identify from its discovery in a 5-year-old boy who died of the virus within the late 1950s in Powassan, Ontario, Canada.

Consultants suppose it was once transmitted primarily by the groundhog tick, which usually didn’t feed on people. As an alternative, it fed totally on skunks, groundhogs and squirrels, Shapiro stated.

Sooner or later, it moved to deer ticks, and people are ticks that generally chunk people.

Mind irritation

There are nonetheless many mysteries to unravel regarding Powassan virus. For instance, though some analysis has instructed that as many as 5% of deer ticks in some areas of Connecticut are optimistic for the virus, that’s not exhibiting up in excessive numbers of Powassan human an infection, Shapiro stated.

However circumstances are rising, in response to CDC numbers, stated Dr. Nicole Baumgarth, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins Faculty of Public Well being. But it’s not clear whether or not there are literally extra individuals changing into contaminated or if docs are testing for it extra incessantly, she stated.

“There isn’t any therapy, apart from kind of normal help of a person who has the illness,” Baumgarth stated. “Probably the most severe sickness related to Powassan is irritation of the mind, or encephalitis, however not everyone who will get contaminated with this virus will develop these very extreme circumstances.”

Different signs can embrace fever, chills, fatigue, rash on trunk of the physique, muscle weak spot, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neck stiffness, in response to Yale Drugs.

Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of these contaminated seemingly could have no signs or minor signs and never be recognized.

For individuals who do have signs extreme sufficient to be recognized, usually with encephalitis, the dying charge is someplace between 10% and 30%, Shapiro stated.

Bear in mind, nonetheless, it’s uncommon. “It’s a little scary, however it’s a uncommon illness,” Baumgarth stated.

With Lyme illness, the tick needs to be hooked up for a couple of day or so to transmit its an infection. Pulling the tick off promptly places you at low danger of an infection. If it’s been longer, a single dose of doxycycline is reasonably efficient in stopping an infection. Nevertheless, Baumgarth famous that the Powassan pathogen could be transmitted quicker than Lyme micro organism, “so it is exhausting to outrun that.”

Prevention is one of the best remedy

You’ll be able to take some precautions to restrict tick publicity when spending time in grassy or wooded areas that may harbor ticks, Baumgarth and Shapiro stated.

Put on lengthy sleeves and lengthy pants, with the bottoms of the pants tucked inside socks.

Put on light-colored clothes in order that any ticks may be seen. Take away them immediately.

Use an insect repellent that has 30% DEET. One other repellent, permethrin, is supposed to be utilized to clothes.

After you come back from mountaineering, wash garments and place in a sizzling dryer. If it’s sizzling sufficient, that may kill ticks.

Verify your self for ticks after you come back, bathe instantly and have another person examine in locations you may’t see, if doable.

Extra info

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has extra on the Powassan virus.


SOURCES: Eugene Shapiro, MD, professor, pediatrics and epidemiology, vice chair for analysis, Division of Pediatrics, and deputy director, investigative drugs PhD program, Yale College, New Haven, Conn.; Nicole Baumgarth, DVM, PhD, immunologist, Johns Hopkins Faculty of Public Well being, Baltimore; CBS Information


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