In 2016 a man walked into the ER with pain and inflamed testicles. About 3 weeks later he was dead. Initially, doctors gave him an antibiotic but soon he was right back at the hospital with trouble speaking and walking. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, with the doctor’s assumption of inflammation in or surrounding the brain, he was tested for Lyme, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, herpes, mumps, and West Nile. All tests came up negative. After 2 weeks in the hospital, the man was dead. It wasn’t until after his death that they were finally able to identify the cause… Powassan.
Powassan is a virus carried by ticks, so rare that over the last 10 years the CDC reports only 100 human cases. Powassan can cause inflammation by attacking the central nervous system.
There is no specific test for Powassan due to its rare nature and in this case looking for antibodies against the disease in the man’s system wasn’t possible either. The patient had lymphoma and was on a cancer medication that kept him from producing antibodies of any kind. Between the rarity of the disease and the circumstances specific to this patient, most tests could not find the source of the encephalitis making it impossible to treat.
Unfortunately, it was not until after his death that the doctors were able to use an “unbiased sequencing” test to figure out the cause. These types of test screen for all potential bacteria or pathogens at once as opposed to testing for one at a time. This is how the DNA of the Powassan virus was detected in this man. While this type of testing is virtually searching the entire bit of DNA in a person searching for the tiniest possibility of anything foreign to the human, these results support its usefulness.
At Mosquito Squad of Central Mass and the North Shore, we are constantly fascinated by these findings. There is continuing research out there about tick and mosquito-borne illnesses and we make it a priority to bring it to you. We also make it a priority to bring the best possible tick protection to your home. Give us a call to schedule your first barrier treatment. We 100% guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.