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What Is Powassan Virus? Here's What You Need to Know

a woman lying in a hospital bed

Ticks can spread the Powassan virus. When they do, people can get Powassan virus disease, which can be fatal.

A clear understanding of Powassan virus is a must. That way, you can take appropriate steps to protect yourself and others against ticks that carry the virus.

What Is Powassan Virus Exactly?

Powassan virus is a tick-borne flavivirus. When a tick carrying the virus bites a person, it can cause the individual to experience Powassan virus disease.

People coping with Powassan virus disease may not report any symptoms. However, those who experience symptoms may feel sick anywhere from one week to one month. Approximately 10-15% of Powassan virus cases are fatal.

Common symptoms of Powassan virus disease include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Infection of the brain (encephalitis)
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Seizures
  • Meningitis

Powassan virus disease is rare, but more cases have been reported over the past few years. These cases were recorded in the northeast and Great Lakes regions of the United States. And these cases were reported in mid-fall; ticks are most active during this time.

How to Protect Against Powassan Virus Disease

Avoiding ticks is the best way to protect against Powassan virus disease, since there are no vaccines to prevent or medicines to combat the virus.

For those who experience symptoms of Powassan virus disease, consult with a doctor immediately. At this time, a doctor can perform testing and determine if an individual is dealing with the disease.

An individual diagnosed with Powassan virus disease may require hospitalization. During this time, the patient may receive support for breathing. The patient may also get treatment to help him or her stay hydrated or reduce swelling in the brain.

Is Powassan Virus Disease Preventable?

Effective tick control is paramount to reducing the risk for Powassan virus disease. There are many things you can do to minimize the risk of coming into contact with ticks infected with Powassan disease. These include:

  • Know where ticks live. Keep an eye out for ticks in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, as these are common tick habitats.
  • Wear the right apparel and accessories. If you go outdoors in areas where ticks may be present, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to limit the risk that ticks can get on your skin. Plus, wear light-colored clothing and accessories so you can quickly and easily identify ticks on it.
  • Stay away from the sides of a walking trail. When you travel along a walking trail, stay in the center.
  • Read"tick safety” for more information.

In addition, follow the 6 C's of tick control:

  • Clear out areas of your property where ticks may be present.
  • Clean leaf litter and other debris around your property.
  • Choose lavender, garlic, and other plants that deter ticks.
  • Check fences, brick walls, and other common hiding places for ticks.
  • Care for dogs, cats, and other family pets; you can ask your veterinarian for information about tick collars and sprays for your pets.
  • Call tick control professionals who can treat your property.

We encourage you to take every precaution to avoid tick bites when spending time outdoors. But for your own property, Mosquito Squad of West St. Louis County is your best choice for all of your outdoor pest control needs, especially mosquitoes, ticks, and gnats. Our tick controls services can reduce adult ticks by 85-90%. Call our team today to request a free quote.