Although the Powassan virus has been around for a while, reports of human infection cases remain low. Despite the low rate of illnesses, this virus is deadly. Because it is such a massive threat, protecting yourself and your property from infected vectors is vital.
One way to safeguard yourself is to become knowledgeable about the Powassan virus. Knowledge is empowerment, enabling you to take essential steps to avoid contracting this virus.
Learn as much as you can right here about the Powassan virus and how to use Safer Nature pest control as one protection barrier. Then learn of other best options to shield yourself from this virus.
What Is the Powassan Virus?
The Powassan virus was identified in a young boy who died of encephalitis in 1958 in Powassan, Canada. However, scientists backdated its origins to ticks infected with this virus in northern Colorado in 1952.
Although the Powassan virus is rare, it is deadly, with infected ticks needing only 15 minutes to pass this disease to their hosts. Infected black-legged ticks (deer ticks) and groundhog ticks can carry this virus.
These ticks inhabit dense brush, grasslands, and wooded regions. They are prevalent in the Great Lakes and the northeast regions of the U.S. High-risk periods for being bitten are in spring and summer when these ticks are the most active.
Some people think that the Powassan virus is similar to Lyme. It is not. A bacterium causes Lyme disease, and a virus causes the Powassan illness.
What Are the Powassan Virus Symptoms?
Some people mistakenly think mosquitoes spread the Powassan virus because it belongs to the same family as the West Nile virus. This assumption is incorrect, as only ticks are known to spread the Powassan virus. Nevertheless, ticks and mosquitoes are vectors of other diseases that generate debilitating symptoms.
Symptoms of the Powassan virus tend to become evident within two to four weeks after an infected tick bite and include:
- Crippling headaches
- Difficulty with speaking
- Memory loss
- Coordination loss
- Severe symptoms of the Powassan virus may include the above and additional reactions such as:
- High fever
Serious cases of the Powassan virus are known to cause encephalitis and meningitis. Encephalitis causes brain inflammation, while meningitis causes inflammation of the spinal and brain membranes.
One out of ten people dies from the Powassan virus. Survivors often continue to experience adverse neurological symptoms like headaches, muscle weakness, confusion, and memory loss.
Who Is at Risk of Getting the Powassan Virus?
Anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, fishing, or hunting is at risk of being bitten by an infected tick or ticks. People who work outdoors also have a bigger chance of being infected by tick bites than those who work indoors.
Additionally, children and older adults typically have weaker immune systems. This condition means they are more susceptible to the Powassan virus than those with more robust immune systems.
How Does It Spread?
Animals like squirrels, deer, and groundhogs can carry the Powassan virus. Ticks can become infected when feeding on these hosts and transfer the disease to people.
Some ticks that carry this virus are the black-legged tick which feeds on deer. This virus is known as lineage 2, as this tick also feeds on people. Other ticks only feed on groundhogs and squirrels; this part of the Powassan virus is known as lineage 1. People seldom have contact with these animals or the ticks that feed on them.
Although extremely rare, it is possible to contract this flavivirus through contaminated raw milk from cows or goats. But tick bites are still the main source of transmitting the Powassan virus in people. Still, once a tick infects a person with this virus, the person can’t transmit it to someone else, except through a blood transfusion, which is also extremely rare.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A medical doctor will ask for a patient’s history and whether they know or think they have had a tick bite. The doctor will often also do a physical exam and a laboratory test.
Some lab tests look for the presence of an existing Powassan virus. Others test for a new infection. Many of these lab tests rely on biological responses to determine the presence of a disease.
Serological testing: This laboratory test picks up antibodies due to the human body producing them to fight the Powassan virus. Although this serological test is standard, it can only provide evidence of whether the patient has already had the Powassan virus infection rather than a new one.
Rapid immunochromatographic diagnostic tests: These tests identify the development of Powassan virus antigens in real-time.
Nucleic acid detection tests: One of these tests is the RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction). Although not widely used in laboratories, a medical expert may recommend this or a similar test in a specialized laboratory. This diagnostic method recognizes viral RNA loads in cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and other bodily fluids. Experts use these types of tests to diagnose current Powassan virus infections.
At present, there are no known treatments for this virus. Medical doctors rely on supportive therapies to manage the patient’s symptoms. If brain or spinal inflammation occurs or the virus impacts the respiratory system, hospitalization is often necessary. Other interventions may include corticosteroids, intravenous fluids, and drugs like Ribavirin. Still, these depend on individual cases and the medical team.
Powassan Virus Prevention
Avoiding contact with infected ticks is the best way to limit your chances of contracting the Powassan virus. You can follow these safety tips when outdoors and add another barrier by treating your pets with tick and flea products.
Treating for the Powassan Virus for Decades
Safer Nature Pest Control has been delivering pest control services to limit exposure to the Powassan virus for decades. Your best option is to follow the safety tips suggested to reduce exposure. But the ideal strategy is to get expert help to bolster your barriers against contracting this deadly virus.
We are available seven days a week, so call us at (978) 325-1325 for a quote. We offer organic and traditional tick control methods. We also provide a combo tick and mosquito population control strategy. So, contact us now to protect yourself and your loved ones against this deadly virus.