Is Powassan Virus a Threat in Louisville?

Summer! School is coming to a close, and vacation plans are being made. Will you be camping? Traveling to see family in places all across the country? Or maybe just having a ton of backyard BBQs? As you are packing and pulling out supplies, don’t forget the bug repellent. I know, I know… that’s not the first thing you want to think of but as the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So as tick season is most definitely upon us, we must be diligent in preventing tick bites. Tick bites can lead to tick-borne illnesses, and we all certainly want to avoid that.The most common tick-borne diseases in Kentucky are Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Southern Tick Associated Rash. Lyme disease can also happen on occasion, but it’s not as common here.

Powassan Virus: Rare But Dangerous Tick Disease

This year you are more than likely going to start hearing more and more about another illness that ticks can carry as well: Powassan virus. Powassan is carried by the deer tick, just as Lyme disease is, but can be significantly more dangerous. The virus can cause encephalitis, swelling of the brain, in some cases. 10% of the people that become this severely sick will die. And there is no treatment. Only the symptoms are treatable. 50% of those that survive will have permanent neurological damage of some kind.

The good news is that it is very rare. Over the last ten years, only 75 cases have been reported to the CDC, and they were all in the Northeast and Great Lake regions. Powassan was only first recognized in ticks that actually bite humans in the 1990s, even though it was identified in 1958. There have been very recent cases in the news, though as we said before, in the North East. One tells us of a woman dying in just weeks after receiving a tick bite in 2013 and again this past November of a 5-month old baby getting sick with Powassan after a tick bite. There are reports of Powassan cases increasing, however, some doctors are not sure this is the case.

The medical director of infectious diseases and immunology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Nicholas Bennett told Time Magazine that he believes it could be a case of more doctors being aware of it and testing for it. Regardless, it is bound to be a heavy tick season due to the warmer winter, and with a deadly disease that can be transferred from a tick to a human within the first 15-minutes of attachment, it is important that we remain aware of new information.

Leave the Ticks in the Woods if You Can

So while Powassan isn’t yet a threat here in Kentucky, it does seem that ticks and their illnesses are always on the move. So if you are traveling this summer, it is important to keep track of what threats are in your surroundings. And if you are in a tick populated area take safety precautions and don’t forget to check and double check. Clothing, tents, bags, and bodies can all carry ticks to new destinations.

As for tick treatment at home, Mosquito Squad of Louisville has a plan for you. Call us for a free quote for the best tick control service for your Louisville area yard. Be sure to continue to follow our blog as we do our best to keep you informed as new information is available. We can’t wait to hear from you! 

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