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

By Cara Murez 

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Might 25, 2023 (HealthDay Information) – Robert Weymouth, 58, of Portland, Maine, died this yr due to a tick chew.

You have possible heard of Lyme illness and the issues it will possibly trigger when handed to a human by way of the chew 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 also be transmitted by ticks. That is the chew that led to deadly issues within the case of this Maine truck driver.

Weymouth — the third Powassan dying since 2015 in Maine and the primary this yr — possible 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 may level to phrases on a board. He pointed to ‘scared,’ ‘afraid,’ ‘pissed off,'” Weymouth advised CBS Information.

True case numbers unknown

“As a result of it is comparatively uncommon to make the analysis, there’s so much we do not know,” mentioned 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. instances of Powassan virus occur within the Northeast and Nice Lakes areas. Maine had 4 instances final yr alone.

Although ticks are arachnids like spiders, the virus will not be so totally different from some viruses through which a mosquito is the vector, akin to dengue and Zika. Aside from its transmission by a tick, Powassan virus is “by no means, form or kind something like Lyme illness,” Shapiro mentioned.

Powassan virus is intently associated to one thing known as tick-borne encephalitis, which is a virus significantly seen in Central Jap Europe and Eurasia, Shapiro mentioned.

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

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

Specialists assume it was 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 mentioned.

In some unspecified time in the future, it moved to deer ticks, and people are ticks that generally chew people.

Mind irritation

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

However instances are rising, in response to CDC numbers, mentioned 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 turning into contaminated or if docs are testing for it extra incessantly, she mentioned.

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

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 Medication.

Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of these contaminated possible can have no signs or minor signs and never be identified.

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

Remember, nevertheless, it’s uncommon. “It’s a little scary, however it’s a uncommon illness,” Baumgarth mentioned.

With Lyme illness, the tick must be hooked up for a few 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. Nonetheless, Baumgarth famous that the Powassan pathogen will be transmitted quicker than Lyme micro organism, “so it is onerous 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 mentioned.

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 could 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 from mountain climbing, 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, 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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