The virus is extremely rare: Only about 50 cases of Powassan virus have been reported in the U.S. between 1958 and 2011, according to a 2012 study. It's definitely scary, though: The virus can cause encephalitis, a brain infection that causes extreme swelling and inflammation, and meningitis, an infection of the membranes of the spine and brain, according to Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a board-certified infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Both Lyme disease and Powassan are carried through deer ticks. However, what's scary is that, unlike Lyme, the Powassan virus shows no tell-tale rash and the tick doesn't have to stay on your body for long to transmit the infection — it only takes about an hour. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion and seizures, among other things. Many people don't show any symptoms at all.
About 10 percent of those who develop encephalitis end up dying from it. About half of survivors develop chronic neurological problems, including muscle wasting and memory problems. There is currently no vaccination or treatment for the virus.
The good news? The Powassan virus is extremely rare, so your chances of contracting the virus are slim. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take steps to protect yourself — and your family — from tick-borne diseases during the warmer months. Remember to:
And if you do find a tick? Be sure to remove it properly so no body parts are left behind.
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