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The Deer Tick Brings Yet Another Disease Risk to Massachusetts

The Powassan virus (POW) has now made its presence known in the Cape. 4 of 6 local sites set up for testing by the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at Umass- Amherst have confirmed ticks that tested positive for Powassan, according to the Cape Cod Chronicle. The CDC reports 1 case of POW in Massachusetts between 2004 and 2013 and state officials are now reporting 9 cases since then. This sudden growth is good cause for heightened awareness.  

How Can We Get Powassan?

Humans are infected with POW by a bite from an infected deer tick. This is the same tick that carries several other diseases, including Lyme disease which we have been aware of and dealing with in force for quite some time. This sudden increase makes researchers question if POW has been present in local ticks for a while now and misdiagnosed. What makes POW different and possibly more threatening than Lyme is that it can be transferred from the tick to human immediately at the bite. Lyme requires the tick to be attached for several hours for transmission. Deer ticks live in the wooded, brushy, humid habitat. They wait on the tips of sticks, bushes, blades of grass to grab onto their host as they walk by, and climb their way up to find a spot to feed. Because infection of POW can be immediate, it now seems more important than ever to dress appropriately and constantly check for ticks throughout the day.

How Will We Know We Have Powassan?

Like so many other mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, this is where it gets tricky. From the time of the bite, it can take from a week up to a month for symptoms to begin to show. And some may never see symptoms at all. If you find you’ve been bitten, it is best to note the date and pay close attention. Any signs of fever, headache, weakness, nausea, confusion, loss of coordination and you should contact a doctor. It is rare, but in some instances, this becomes much more serious, and approximately 10% of Powassan cases lead to serious illness or death. This occurs when the virus infects the nervous system. It can then cause meningitis or encephalitis. Those that are affected in this way and do survive are likely to have permanent neurological symptoms. There is no medication to treat POW, only lessen its symptoms.

Mosquito Squad of Chelmsford & Cambridge wants to keep you updated and informed about tick-borne illnesses that could affect you and your family. But more than information we would like to give you the tools to prevent your family from being affected. Keep your yard safe by following the 6Cs of tick prevention. Call us to schedule your tick mist, and we can eliminate 85-90% of the ticks in your yard. Also, ask about our tick tube system and how it works year-round to slow the growth of future ticks by halting them at the beginning of their lifecycle. Fall tick tubes are dropped in late August or early September, so be sure to call today for the most effective tick treatment.

Contact us today at (978) 381-4028 for a free estimate!