Tick-Borne Powassan Virus Returns to Maine in 2019

​​The Powassan virus has recently seen its first reported incidence in Maine since 2017, notes a report published on Chwezi Traveller. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the Maine CDC) reported that the individual affected contracted the potentially deadly tick-borne disease in the state and they are now being treated in a hospital in New Hampshire.

This is the eleventh case of the Powassan virus that has been seen in Maine since the start of the 21st century. The disease was first identified in 1958. Since then, there have been an average of seven incidences reported per year in the United States. The virus is typically contracted via the bites of deer and woodchuck ticks, which can be found in areas populated with woods and bushes.

The virus can cause encephalitis and there are no known vaccines or antivirals that can be used to treat it.

Symptoms of the Powassan virus can become apparent from anywhere between seven and 30 days following a bite. Sufferers may report headaches, confusion and memory loss. Other, more debilitating indicators can include fever, weakness, vomiting and even seizures. More long-lasting neurological difficulties are also a possibility. Indeed, in its most extreme form, the disease can be fatal. And unfortunately, while the symptoms can be alleviated, there is no effective treatment for the disease itself.

Speaking about the dangers of the rare Powassan virus, the Director of the Maine CDC, Nirav D. Shah, warned hikers and campers to be aware of the risks posed by their surroundings. He also stressed preventative steps that can be taken to reduce the possibility of contracting the virus or other tick-borne illnesses.

“Use caution in wooded and bushy areas and follow the “No Ticks 4 ME” approach to help reduce exposure to ticks and lower the risk of disease,” Shah told Outbreak News Today.

The Maine CDC's well-publicized “No Ticks 4 ME” strategy aims to tackle the issue of tick-borne diseases. As its name suggests, the initiative highlights a four-pronged approach to addressing the risk of ticks. The first is to wear protective clothing, while the second is to use a U.S. Environment Protection Agency-approved insect repellent. The final two strategies advise taking caution in areas where you know ticks may be located and cleaning yourself and your equipment daily, in addition to spot checks to be performed after you have left particularly high-risk areas.

When it comes to cleaning yourself, a shower or a bath is recommended no more than an hour or two after returning from an at-risk area. It is also important to perform a head-to-toe check and to also check clothing, pets and equipment for any ticks that may have been carried with you. From the perspective of the Main CDC, vigilance is key.

The Powassan virus has some similarities with another, better-known tick-borne illness: Lyme disease. Lyme disease is much more common in the U.S., however, and some 30,000 cases are brought to the attention of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually. And this may just be the tip of the iceberg – the CDC reports that as many as 300,000 individuals may in fact contract the condition in any calendar year.

One telling difference between the Powassan virus and Lyme disease, though, is that the latter comes with a telling rash around the infected bite. This, fortunately, can lead to quicker identification of the disease. Either way, tick-borne diseases are certainly something to be aware of and planned for by anyone wishing to enjoy the great outdoors.

Source: Chwezi Traveller

Categories: Travel

Tags: Powassan virus, tick-borne diseases, tick-borne illnesses

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