POW: A Tick Disease Worse Than Lyme?

By Brodie SwisherMay 29, 20171 Comment

As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about when it comes to dodgin’ ticks in our warm weather outdoor pursuits, studies now show that there is a virus ticks carry that is far worse than Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi carried by ticks. It commonly causes illnesses and problems with your skin, nervous system, and even heart problems. And for everything that’s evil about Lyme Disease, we can at least take comfort in the fact that, if caught early enough, there’s a good prognosis for a full recovery in most cases with antibiotics.

Ticks are tiny little blood suckers, but the impact they can have on the physical health of you or your family can be huge.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains, even in some more advanced neurological or cardiac forms of Lyme disease, intravenous antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or penicillin can help.

But have you heard about the Powassin Virus (POW)? The POW virus can kill you and/or cause permanent disability. According to the CDC, Powassan (POW) virus is transmitted to humans by infected ticks. Approximately 75 cases of POW virus disease were reported in the United States over the past 10 years. Most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe POW virus illnesses often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.

And those three word, “no specific treatment,” is what makes POW so scary. Doctors haven’t seen much of it, so they rarely know how to handle it.

pow virus map

Powassan virus neuroinvasive disease cases reported by state, 2006–2015 (CDC)

CDC Facts on POW

  • Many people who become infected with Powassan (POW) virus do not develop any symptoms.
  • The incubation period (time from tick bite to onset of illness) ranges from about 1 week to 1 month.
  • POW virus can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).
  • Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures.
  • Approximately half of survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems.
  • Approximately 10% of POW virus encephalitis cases are fatal.

With occurrences increasing, and now showing up in deer ticks, hunters and outdoorsmen need to be aware, and more cautious, to the harmful effects of POW. Be sure to take the time and effort to prevent contact from ticks as you  and your family spend the summer days outdoors.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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