The Growing Threat Of Tick-Borne Disease Part I: Powassan Virus

This story is Part I of a series on tick-borne disease. Here we provide background information on the current state of tick-borne illness in the United States and then focus on the swiftly growing threat of Powassan virus.

This spring, when everything is in full bloom and you’re looking forward to spending time outside, you may have unwanted company. Although small, ticks carry many different potentially dangerous pathogens, and Powassan virus is one of growing concern.

Just this past month, the Connecticut Department of Public Health reported the first case of Powassan virus in the state for 2022. The victim was hospitalized with neurological symptoms but recovered. Unfortunately, a person who likely acquired the pathogen in Maine was not so lucky, and died in the hospital this past April. Though the northeastern states are no stranger to tick-borne disease, Powassan virus, which carries a mortality rate of 1 in 10, is especially threatening.

Carried and transmitted by both the Woodchuck tick and the vector better known for Lyme disease, the blacklegged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), Powassan virus can be transmitted from tick to human in a mere 15 minutes. Due to the combination of an incredibly short transmission time and the severity of the neurological symptoms of the resulting illness, Powassan virus is a growing threat to public health and safety throughout the range of the blacklegged tick, primarily across the Northeast and Great Lakes regions.

Originally published on Forbes on May 23, 2022. Read the full article on Forbes.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.