Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Powassan Virus Detected in Frelinghuysen

Frelinghuysen Township’s website announces on their website that Powassan Virus Disease has been found in a tick tested from the area. They want you to know the following to keep yourselves & pets safe:

One adult Ixodes scapularis tick, (commonly referred to as the deer tick) collected from the Township of Frelinghuysen has tested positive for Powasssan virus. Eleven adult Ixodes scapularis ticks were collected on October 21, 2021 from Frelinghuysen Forest Preserve while sampling in a heavily wooded area.

Warren County Mosquito Extermination Commission started sampling for ticks and tickborne disease in the fall of 2021 after receiving grant funding from the NJ Department of Health for that purpose. A total of 145 Ixodes scapularis ticks were collected from 10 sites throughout the county last fall.

Results from 20 of the 145 tick specimens have been received, the remainder of the results are still pending. Sampling for ticks will continue this spring in Warren County.
Powassan virus is a rare tickborne disease transmitted by Ixodes scapularis ticks (deer ticks). Deer ticks are also capable of transmitting Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Borrelia miyomotoi. Deer ticks are found year-round but are seen in higher numbers spring (April & May) and in the fall (October & November).

Residents are urged to help reduce their risk of contracting tickborne diseases by following these guidelines:

• Use insect repellent on clothing (longest lasting is DEET) or treat clothing using permethrin, which kills ticks on contact

• Wear light colored clothing while enjoying outdoor activities so ticks can be seen easier
• Walk in the center of trails and avoid brushy areas and overhanging vegetation
• Do Tick Checks! – inspect yourself carefully and immediately remove any attached ticks
• When coming in from the outdoors, remove and immediately wash and/or dry your clothing (at least 20 minutes in the dryer) in hot temperatures so any ticks on your clothing will be killed

• Remove attached ticks with tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skins surface as possible
and pulling upward with steady, even pressure, then clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol
• If bitten by a tick, note the day on your calendar, and watch for signs & symptoms of illness (if you are inclined to save the tick for later testing, place it in a zipper bag and freeze it)

POWASSAN VIRUS INFORMATION
Powassan virus symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur. There is no specific treatment for Powassan virus, but people with severe illness often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.

Woodchuck ticks, or Groundhog ticks, have also been found to carry Powassan / Photo Credit: ME Cooperative Ext.

According to Blairstown’s Animal Control Officer, Scott Hendricks, Powassan is more troubling than previous tick-borne illnesses, specifically because there is no treatment currently available.

He offered these Centers of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines:

What is Powassan virus disease?

Powassan virus disease is a rare, but often severe disease caused by a virus spread to people by infected ticks. The number of reported cases of people sick from Powassan virus has increased in recent years.  Powassan virus belongs to a group of viruses that can cause infection of the brain (encephalitis) or the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

How do people get infected with Powassan virus?

Powassan virus is spread to people primarily by infected ticks. Rarely, Powassan virus has spread person-to-person through a blood transfusion. It does not spread through coughing, sneezing, or touching.

Where and when have most cases of Powassan virus disease occurred?

Most cases have occurred in the northeastern and Great Lakes regions of the United States from the late spring through mid-fall when ticks are most active.

Who is at risk for infection with Powassan virus?

Anyone bitten by a tick in an area where the virus is commonly found can be infected with Powassan virus. The risk is highest for people who live, work or recreate in brushy or wooded areas, because of greater exposure to potentially infected ticks.

How soon do people get sick after getting bitten by an infected tick?

The time from tick bite to feeling sick (incubation period) ranges from 1 week to 1 month.

What are the symptoms of Powassan virus disease?

Many people infected with Powassan virus do not have symptoms. For those who have them, initial symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Powassan virus can cause severe disease, including infections of the brain (encephalitis) or the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Symptoms of severe disease can include:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Seizures

How is Powassan virus disease diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose Powassan virus infection based on:

  • Signs and symptoms
  • History of possible exposure to the ticks that spread Powassan virus
  • Laboratory testing of blood or spinal fluid

What is the treatment for Powassan virus disease?

There are no specific medicines to treat Powassan virus disease. People with severe disease often need to be hospitalized to receive support for breathing, staying hydrated, and reducing swelling in the brain.

How can I reduce the chance of getting infected with Powassan virus?

The best way to prevent Powassan virus disease is to protect yourself from tick bites. There is no vaccine to prevent Powassan virus infection. Reduce your risk of getting sick by:

What should I do if I think a family member might have Powassan virus disease?

If you think you or a family member might have Powassan virus disease, see your healthcare provider.Content source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)

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