Increased risk of rare tick-borne infection as warmer weather approaches

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Peak tick season is quickly approaching, and there could be more infected ones this year.

Warmer winters have led to an increase in ticks, which means there’s an increase in tick-borne infections as well.

Powassan is a rare tick-borne disease, but most ticks with the virus are in the Northeast. If you’re infected, there’s a small chance it could be life threatening.

Powassan causes inflammation to brain tissue.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 cases have been reported in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region in the last decade.

“We have seen approximately seven cases per year since 2006,” Dr. Heidi Puc with Stram Center for Integrative Medicine said.

The disease could cause death, though it only happens in 10 percent of patients, Dr. Puc said. It can, however, leave lasting effects.

“Fifty percent of patients can develop some permanent neurologic damage,” she said.

Like Lyme disease, Powassan is carried in deer ticks. It can take a few days to a month before symptoms appear. For most, they’re mild.

“People can present with fever, nausea and vomiting, neck pain and headache,” Dr. Puc said.

There’s no treatment, but people can take precautions if they’re in a wooded area. Dr. Puc recommends using repellent, wearing long, tight clothes, and showering when getting back inside.

Dr. Puc said some symptoms can overlap with Lyme disease, but if you have meningitis-type symptoms, you’re more likely to have Powassan.

 

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