Every spring we are inundated with reminders about ticks and protecting ourselves. Despite these reminders cases of Lyme disease are on the rise for both people and pets. This summer another, but rarer tick born virus has been reported in the northeast called Powassan Disease.
Powassan is a deadly virus spread by the bite of three different types of ticks including the deer tick which spreads Lyme disease and is prevalent in the Northeast. Scientists have detected an increase in the Powassan virus in deer this year which always means there will be a rise of infections in humans. The most recent case of Powassan was discovered on Cape Cod in May. Powassan Virus has a 10%-15% fatality rate among people who are diagnosed which is why protection is more important than ever.
Powassan is a very painful disease which presents symptoms within 24-48 hours. Symptoms start as ‘flu like’ and always cause fever and headaches, then become extremely serious with the possibility of seizures and cognitive impairment.
There are no vaccines or treatments for Powassan so protecting yourself from tick bites is your best course of action.
Ticks are often in tall grass and wooded areas, but they can easily hitchhike on clothing and pets into homes. While technically ticks are out in all seasons, they really start coming out in temperatures over 45 degrees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year and that reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against both Lyme and Powassan disease. Avoid wooded and brushy areas.Wear clothing that leaves no skin exposed like knee socks and head protection. Use repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET.Have a tick only sticky lint roller by the door and roll everyone prior to going inside. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors. It’s important to get all the ticks off before they become imbedded in skin.
Tumble dry clothes, leashes and collars in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet who can also get Powassan and carry ticks into your home, a double whammy.
Check your own and your child’s scalp, behind ears and warm places like arm pits and the back of knees immediately before you enter other rooms of the house.
Dogs and cats will love being pet from head to paw while checking for ticks paying special attention to hot areas behind the ears, on the neck and in folds.
Create tick safe zones in your yard away from shrubs and not under trees. Treat the area with repellant specific for backyards and areas kids play.
If you are reluctant to use repellents and pesticides seek out natural tick repellents like peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus & garlic, which all come in oil form, but understand the CDC highly recommends products with DEET to be really safe.
Tools to keep handy are tweezers or tick keys for removal and an adhesive lint roller to go over clothes prior to entering the house. Alcohol and cotton balls to clean a bite and seal-able containers to transport to your doctor for testing. Most important the repellant! To dispose of the tick soak in rubbing alcohol or cut off oxygen supply with a plastic bag.
If you find a tick bite on a human or a pet getting to the doctor is crucial.