Powassan is a troubling new viral tick-borne disease.
According to the CDC, it takes anywhere from about seven to 30 days after being bitten by a tick carrying the Powassan virus for symptoms to begin.
Powassan virus can attack the nervous system, causing encephalitis (brain inflammation) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the spinal cord).
- loss of coordination
- trouble speaking
About half of those who survive a Powassan infection have permanent health issues such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems.
There are no medications (antibiotics don’t work on viruses) to treat it or vaccine to prevent infection. Since there is no treatment, the best way to protect is to follow the CDC recommendations:
- Avoid contact with ticks
- Walk in the center of trails or paths through woods or tall grasses
- Use insect repellent
- Bathe or take a shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Check your whole body for ticks and use a mirror to check your back, neck, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in your hair or on your head.
- Check pets, coats, backpacks, etc. as ticks can come into the house on them and attach to a person later.
- Put clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing.