Healthy Active Living with St. Joseph Healthcare

Powassan Cases highlight need for tick-awareness

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Maine CDC recently identified two human cases of Powassan encephalitis in adult Maine residents who reside in the Mid Coast area of the state. Both individuals were discharged from the hospital and are recovering.

Powassan virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Signs and symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur.

Symptoms can begin anytime from one week to one month after the tick bite. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe Powassan virus illness often need to be hospitalized.

Transmission time from tick bite to infection for Powassan encephalitis is shorter than for other tick-borne diseases so the best prevention is to prevent tick bites.

To avoid Powassan, Lyme disease and other nasty tick-borne illnesses, Maine CDC recommends the “No Ticks 4 ME” approach:

  • Wear protective clothing – long sleeves and pants. Light colored clothing makes ticks easier to see.
  • Use an EPA approved repellent. Apply repellents to bare skin according to label instructions. Permethrin (a synthetic variant of an insecticide produced by chrysanthemum flowers) is a good option to treat clothing and gear and will remain protective through several washings
  • Use caution in tick infested areas
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and stay in the middle of trails whenever possible
  • Perform daily tick checks
  • Check for ticks immediately after exiting high risk areas. Bathe or shower (preferably within 2 hours after being outdoors) to wash off and find ticks on your body. Conduct a full-body tick check. Also examine clothing, gear, and pets.

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