If you happen to live in the Upper Midwest and Northeast of the United States, the usually rare chances of transmitting a deadly tick-borne virus during the next two seasons increase significantly.
Even though Lyme disease would be the most ordinary among this type of viruses, there’s a new one in town, dubbed as Powassan – causing the issue of a warning from health officials, who are concerned about another spike in tick-related deaths.
This virus was first discovered in the U.S. in 2013, when a woman from Warren County, New Jersey complained of symptoms pointing to Lyme disease, but then whatever she suffered from killed her just a few days later.
In her case, the autopsy suggested a brain infection called encephalitis, which causes severe swelling in the brain, and in exceptional cases, also death. But more recently, researchers in collaboration with the state Department of Health are starting to believe it was the new virus which caused her death. Unlike Lyme disease, Powassan symptoms quickly lead to the death of the patient.
Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still consider Powassan to be one of the more rare viruses, with only an average of six deaths reported each year, it is lately becoming an aggressive pathogen with increased frequency.
The virus originates in the vicinity of Ontario, Canada, more than a decade ago; back then, researchers did not give it a second thought, considering it a non-existing threat that will die down on its own.
But since it has passed over the border and into the United States, local health authorities in partnership with the CDC are officially taking notice and making it their business to inform the population about the potential threat.
Because the seriousness of the disease – long-term brain damage and death – a collective effort is underway to find out the source of all evil: the ticks. The results of the initiative surprised everyone; Tadgh Rainey, public health director in Hunterdon said that the number of ticks have exceeded the previous estimation. With so many available “pathways“, the virus can easily learn to be adaptable with time.
Two of the most dangerous species are groundhog ticks and deer ticks – but they are not limited to animals. It is fairly easy for them to switch to human hosts, but researchers are still conducting some experiments before they can tell for sure if both species are as lethal in humans.
Rainey explained that this should not cause mass panic, just a close vigilance – wearing long-sleeves outdoor and regularly checking if any ticks have attached to one’s body are two of the most efficient preventive measures you can adopt.
Image Source: Live Science