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  • Tom Watson

NJ Should be Concerned about the Powassan Virus

Tick Season NJ - Go Green Pest Solutions
The Deer Tick or Black Legged Tick.

I first wrote this post in April 2015. The other day two NJ residents were found to have contracted Powassan from a tick. One person died. Based on this awful news, I thought I would re-post the blog.

Powassan is a rare but potentially fatal tick-borne disease. It was first diagnosed in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario, in a 5-year-old boy who died from encephalitis.

Symptoms can include headache, fever, vomiting, weakness, confusion, memory loss, seizures and long-term neurological problems. To date, over 60 cases have been reported in the US and have been mostly in the Northeast and Great Lakes region (CDC). It is transmitted by the black-legged or deer tick which is the same way Lyme is transmitted.

There are two forms of Powassan – a non-neuroinvasive, and neuroinvasive. The neuorinvaasive is the dangerous one as it can lead to encephalitis, meningitis and death.

Even though it may not seem like a lot of cases, the average number of cases has tripled in recent years, according to Dr. Jorge Parada, an entomologist and medical consultant for the National Pest Management Association.

What You Should Know

Here are some good reasons why people living in NJ should take extra precautions:

  • It is more dangerous than Lyme as Lyme can be treated (if caught early).

  • There is no treatment.

  • It is transmitted in less than 1 hour – much faster than Lyme. It can take 12 – 48 hours before getting infected with Lyme.

  • Fatality rate for the neuroinvasive strain has been reported as 5 – 25%.

Now that the weather in NJ is finally nice, go out and enjoy it. Just heed these tips as prevention is the key:

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, high socks and cover your head. Light colors help you spot ticks before they can bite you.

  • Walk in the middle of trails. Avoid contact with ticks by avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

  • Use bug spray with 20-30% DEET. Not repellents containing DEET can be applied to exposed skin, but only last a few hours

  • Clothing and gear can be treated with permethrin, which remains protective through several washings. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin.

  • Find and remove ticks immediately before they have a chance to bite and attach.

  • Bathe or shower (preferably within 2 hours after being outdoors) to wash off and find ticks on your body.

  • Conduct a full-body tick check. Check your clothes, gear and pets.

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