What is the Powassan Virus?
What is the Powassan Virus? Should People in California Worry?
Most people worry about Lyme Disease when they pull a tick from their skin. However, Lyme Disease is not the only tick-borne illness. Though rare, recent occurrences of the Powassan Virus suggest that the virus could be a cause for concern.
What is the Powassan Virus?
The Powassan Virus causes some severe symptoms, including encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. People contract the illness from ticks. One of the differences between Lyme Disease and the Powassan Virus is the speed of contamination. A tick can transmit Powassan in as little as 15 minutes, whereas it takes about 24 hours for a person to contract Lyme Disease. Since most people don’t inspect for ticks four times an hour, it’s easy for a person to become infected if they are tramping through the woods.
Besides encephalitis, the Powassan Virus causes some other symptoms.
- Memory Loss
- Neurologic Problems
Often, patients require hospitalization to deal with the various symptoms. Severe cases can lead to long-term neurological problems or death.
How to Treat Tick Bites
There is no cure for the Powassan Virus, only management of its symptoms. So, if you do find a tick attached to your skin, remove it gently. Make sure you get all of it, including the head. Clean the area with alcohol or peroxide. If the area is red and puffy, like a mosquito bite, take a pen and draw a ring around the inflamed area. This way you will know if the area is growing and becoming worse over time.
If you show any of the symptoms listed above, especially neurological problems, see a doctor immediately, otherwise continue to monitor the bite at home. Signs of the virus may not show up for weeks, so don’t ignore any illness you experience after finding the tick.
The Powassan Virus in Southern California
All recorded cases of the Powassan Virus have occurred in the Northeast United States, and Canada. The virus is transmitted by the deer tick, which is prevalent in that area. However, deer ticks are also found in Southern California. Lyme disease, also carried by deer ticks, is a common occurrence in the region. While people in California should not fear the Powassan Virus, it is always a good idea to control the tick population in your yard to prevent the spread of tick-borne diseases.
How to Control Ticks in Your Yard
Pest control companies can apply acaricide to reduce the number of ticks found around your home. In addition, you should create a hostile tick environment.
- Keep the grass mowed short.
- If you have wooded areas surrounding your home, place a mulch barrier between it and your yard.
- Fence your yard to keep out wildlife which carry ticks.
- Remove lawn ornaments or furniture where ticks might hide.
Always remember to thoroughly inspect both yourself and your pets anytime you move through long grass or take a walk in the woods. Wear insect repellant to prevent them from attaching to your skin.