ALERT: Terrifying Disease Sweeps the Nation

ALERT: Terrifying Disease Sweeps the Nation

Summer is here, which means that kids across the country can look forward to spending a lot of time outside having fun. But it also means that parents need to worry about things like ticks and the diseases they can bring. Most parents will immediately associate ticks with Lyme disease, but that’s not the only thing that parents need to be worried about, unfortunately.

Experts are warning that Powassan virus is on the rise this summer and like Lyme disease, it is transported and transmitted by ticks. Unlike Lyme disease, which is only carried by deer ticks, Powassan is carried by three kinds of ticks. And as the tick population increases, experts believe that cases of Powassan infections will increase also.

For one family, it was a terrifying ordeal that made Connecticut state history. Five year-old Liam came down with vomiting and a fever, but that soon turned into seizures. Liam was admitted to the emergency room and an infectious disease specialist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center diagnosed him with having Powassan. It was the first case ever in the state. Doctors believe his father brought the tick back after a hunting trip, which is how Liam caught the disease.

Liam was lucky enough to survive with just some scar tissue. But Powassan is nothing to be cavalier about — half of all people who get Powassan will suffer permanent brain damage. 10% will die.

One virologist and medical entomologist, Phil Armstrong, believes that risks for contracting Powassan have increased over the past decades. Armstrong, who works for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, has research dating back to the 1970s — and none of the ticks screened decades ago were carrying the virus. “If it was present then we would have detected it,” he said. “Now we go to those same locations and 2 to 3 percent of the ticks have POW.”

Another study likewise found evidence that the disease is growing, with deer antibodies to the virus having increased over the years. “Deer are always heavily parasitized by the deer tick,” Armstrong explained. But it’s only recently that they’re also getting exposed to this virus.” And while Lyme disease is still far more commonplace than Powassan, it’s also harder to become infected with Lyme disease. It takes about 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease; Powassan is transmitted in just minutes. And after two mild winters, the tick population is growing rapidly.

Are you worried about tick-borne diseases?

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