What are the symptoms and the treatment? – NECN

Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra contributed reporting to this story.

New England area public health officials are urging residents to take precautions to avoid tick bites after several people were infected with the Powassan virus.

The warning comes after a Connecticut resident tested positive for Powassan, and after Maine health officials reported that a resident died last month after possibly being infected with the virus.

Here’s an overview of what the virus is, the symptoms, treatment, and how to take precautions to avoid infection.

What is the Powassan virus?

According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.

It belongs to a group of viruses that can cause brain infection, or encephalitis, of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, according to the CDC.

CDC officials have reported that the number of people infected with the Powassan virus has increased in recent years.

The graph shows the number of Powassan virus neuroinvasive disease cases reported in the United States between 2011 and 2020. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

What are the symptoms of Powassan virus?

Symptoms of the Powassan virus can develop between a week and up to a month after being infected. The virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes after a tick first attaches to an individual.

Health officials have said that while most people infected with the virus are likely to have no or mild flu-like symptoms, some may also have serious illness involving the central nervous system.

About one in 10 cases of the disease is fatal, and about half of survivors have long-term health problems.

Severe cases may begin with fever, vomiting, headache, or weakness, and quickly progress to confusion, loss of coordination, slurred speech, or seizures.

Is there a treatment for Powassan virus?

Health officials say there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for the virus. Serious illness is treated with hospitalization, respiratory support and hydration.

How is the Powassan virus spread?

“The identification of a Connecticut resident with illness associated with the Powassan virus underscores the need to take action to prevent tick bites by late fall,” said Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, in a statement.

According to state health officials, using insect repellent, avoiding areas where ticks are likely to be present, and checking thoroughly for ticks after being outdoors can reduce the risk of being infected with the virus.

Massachusetts health officials say the virus was spread through the bite of infected tiny blacklegged (deer) ticks, and the state has recorded 16 cases of the virus in the past 10 years.

How do you to avoid being infected with the Powassan virus?

Maine health officials suggest the following tips to help prevent tick bites:

  • Be aware of habitats where ticks are likely to be found, including wooded and brushy areas with tall grass.
  • If possible, avoid tall grass and stay in the middle of walking paths.
  • Use an EPA-approved insect repellent on skin and permethrin on clothing for extra protection.
  • Check for ticks daily, especially after returning home from visiting wooded or grassy areas.
  • Take a bath or shower immediately after you get home to remove any ticks from your skin.
  • Examine clothing, equipment, and pets, and ask a veterinarian about effective ways to prevent tick bites for dogs and cats.

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