WENY News - Powassan Virus: a tick-bourne illness

Powassan Virus: a tick-bourne illness

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ELMIRA (WENY) -- Earlier this week, a man from Saratoga County died after contracting a rare, tick-bourne illness. 

"It's a very rare illness and there's not as much known about it as there may be with Lyme Disease," says Tom Kump, Director of Environmental Health for the Chemung County Health Department.

That's because Powassan is often times a far more severe illness. Because it's so rare, a cure or even trends amongst cases, have not been found.
     
That death earlier this week is just one of 24 Powassan cases in New York state since 2000.   

"This case happened in another county. That's not to say it couldn't spread across the state and into other states," says Kump. "With that in mind, there is a chance there could be ticks infected with the bacteria that would cause Powassan in Chemung County".  

According to the CDC, the virus is transmitted by an infected tick, just as Lyme Disease is. However, unlike Lyme, it can become deadly in just a matter of weeks.
     
When bitten, it can cause severe nervous system damage. Some of the symptoms include fever, headaches, difficulty speaking and seizures.  

But it isn't just Powassan experts are warning about. Officials say because you can't tell what kind of ticks are carrying what sort of diseases, it's important to take caution in every situation.

You can do that by wearing repellent when spending time outdoors. Also by wearing long sleeve shirts, pants and boots when you can. The Health Department also advices doing a check for ticks when coming indoors.

"If you do find that you have a tick on your body, we advice that you remove that tick as soon as possible," says Kump. "The sooner you get it removed, the greater your chances of not getting an illness from that tick."

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