Health officials predict that this summer will be the worst tick season ever. Most people in the United States are already familiar with the tick-borne bacterium, which causes the Lyme disease.
However, this time the Powassan virus is rearing its ugly head. The virus causes the Powassan disease, which is transmitted to humans through infected ticks.
It is estimated that 1 in 15 people who contract the Powassan disease succumb to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the last 10 year, 75 cases of Powassan disease were reported.
Powassan: A Tick-Borne Disease
POW or Powassan disease is passed on to human via ticks infected with the Powassan virus. According to the CDC, most cases of Powassan were recorded in the Great Lakes and Northeast region. An individual infected with this virus will likely develop fever, headache, weakness, vomiting, and seizures.
Apart from these, the person may also suffer from confusion, memory loss and long-term neurological problems. Currently, no specific treatment to counter the tick-borne virus exists, but individuals with severe Powassan infection may need to be hospitalized so that they receive intravenous fluids, medicines for reducing brain swelling, and respiratory support.
Tick Season: What Experts Predict
Several older reports have alerted Americans of the large growth in the tick population. Epidemiologists Rick Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing predict that 2017 will be the worst-ever season for tick infiltration and infection. Ostfeld and Keesing have been studying tick-borne diseases such as Lyme for the last 20 years.
The couple shared that one can predict the risk of tick infestation during a particular season by observing wild mice population. For the unfamiliar, these creatures are the major carriers of Lyme disease. Following this principle, the epidemiologists predicted that 2017 will have a higher number of Lyme disease cases because the mice population increased substantially in 2016.
However, Thomas Mather, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, does not share the same view. Mather believes that predicting an impending tick boom can be oversimplified. To understand when a tick season can turn worse, Mather advises one to closely observe the tick's life cycle.
He stated that the ticks that survived the winter will succumb to death soon and their larvae will not reach maturity before 2018. Therefore, the larvae won't be able to infect people anytime soon. Mather predicts that the existing ticks won't last till summer. However, he asked people to be cautious and safeguard themselves against tick infections.
"People need to knock off this concern and say 'I'll take these news stories as the nudge that I needed to actually take some preventative action, finally," Mather remarked.