Dangerous Tick-borne Virus Emerges
Medical experts and public health officials are warning about Powassan virus—a rare tick-borne virus that is reportedly more serious than Lyme disease. Like Lyme, Powassan is usually transmitted by deer ticks. However, the virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes—unlike the bacterium that causes Lyme, which takes 24 hours to pass from a tick to a person.
Powassan virus can cause brain inflammation that results in permanent disability or death in up to 60 percent of cases. Currently, there is no treatment—except supportive care until the body eliminates the virus. Most cases in the United States have been reported in the Northeast and the upper Midwest, according to the CDC.
So far, human infection with the virus, which was discovered in the 1950s in Canada, is rare, but exactly how many people have been infected is unknown. Current estimates only include those who have developed severe infection. According to a study conducted in 2013, Powassan virus in deer in New England increased steadily from 1979 to 2010, suggesting the numbers of ticks carrying the virus is on the rise as well.
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