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Powassan Virus: New Tick Virus in Northern Virginia

There was an article in the Free Lance Star on April 30th, 2019 that stated tick season around the area is going to be a bad one according to the health and pest control officials. A new type of tick on the rise called the Asian Longhorn tick. This tick was introduced on sheep in New Jersey back in 2017. It is now discovered in eight other states including Virginia. This tick can produce up to 2,000 eggs at a time and can reproduce without mating.

There is also a rare tick-borne disease that has made in appearance in Northern Virginia. This virus is called the Powassan virus which is more dangerous than Lyme disease, according to Fox5 News. The virus is named after a town in Ontario Canada in which a young boy dies from having the virus. One person, so far, has contracted the virus. The virus is known to be in the Great Lakes region of the U.S, Canada and now Northeast U.S. There have been five cases reported in Pennsylvania between 2011-2017.

The incubation period ranges from a week to a month. The virus attacks the central nervous system which causes encephalitis and meningitis. Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain and 10% of Powassan encephalitis cases are fatal. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Half of survivors of the virus have permanent neurological symptoms as recurrent headaches, muscle waste and memory problems.

The symptoms of the Powassan virus are:

  • Fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, seizures

Unfortunately, there are no vaccines nor medicines to prevent or treat the Powassan virus infection itself. People with the severe type of infection will need to be hospitalized which will include treatment for respiratory support, fluids, and medicines to reduce the swelling on the brain.

The only prevention that can be taken is to prevent any tick bites. Here are some tips to taken for prevention of tick bites.

  • Avoid wooded or bushy areas with high grass. If you are planning to work in the yard, take a hike, or be around wooded areas, wear long sleeve shirts and pants.

  • Use an EPA registered insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-indecanone.

Once you come inside from being outdoors, make sure you check yourself, family member, and pet for possible ticks. Here are some tips that will help guide you when checking for ticks.

  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. If your clothes are damp, then additional time will be needed. Wash clothes in hot water. Cold or medium temperature will not kill ticks.

  • Check any equipment that you used while outside. An example would be a sleeping bad, blanket, etc.

  • Examine pets when they come inside.

  • Shower within two hours after coming indoors. Showers will help wash off any unattached ticks and is good practice to check yourself as well.

Here are places on the body that you should always check.

  • Under the arms (pit area)

  • In the belly button

  • In and around ears

  • In and around hair

  • Back of knees

  • Between the legs (thigh area)

  • Around the waist area

Elite Wildlife Removal hopes everyone has an enjoyable summer with family and friends. Please ensure you educate yourself about ticks and have a safe summer.

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