Tick-borne Powassan Virus Confirmed in 6 Minnesota Counties


(KQDS) – A tick-borne disease, Powassan, has been confirmed in six Minnesota counties so far this year, including Pine, Anoka, Cass, Clearwater, Houston, and Morrison, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Since 2008, there have been 22 reported cases in the state of Minnesota, one fatal, and researchers warn that the number could grow.

The Powassan (POW) virus is spread through the bite of a tick that is infected with the virus. The virus was first documented in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario. Today, there are two known types of the POW virus.

One type is carried by the deer tick (blacklegged tick), the same tick that spreads Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. This tick is found in many wooded areas throughout Minnesota. They search for their hosts at or near ground level and grab onto a person or animal as they walk by.

Another type of POW virus is carried by similar tick species that usually feed on woodchucks and squirrels instead of humans. These ticks have been found in areas of Minnesota, but humans rarely come into contact with them.

Symptoms of the virus may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, seizures, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), Meningitis. These symptoms can appear within 1-4 weeks of a tick bite. Patients may suffer form long-term neurological symptoms such as headache and memory problems.

There is currently no human vaccine available for Powassan virus. For ways to reduce your risk visit www.health.state.mn.us

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