The new tick-borne disease in Minnesota: Powassan virus

We ran a commentary by Dr. Craig Bowron about a new tick-borne disease called the Powassan virus.

Here’s how Bowron describes the disease:

The Powassan virus is something to avoid because it can cause meningitis–an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, and it can cause encephalitis, a direct infection of the brain. There’s a 10 percent chance of dying from the infection, and some patients don’t regain all of their neurological function. So it’s a virus worth fleeing.

A tick needs to be attached to you for 24 hours to infect you with Lyme disease; to infect you with Powassan, it needs just 15 to 20 minutes.

So although less than 5 percent of Minnesota deer ticks carry the powassan virus (compared to 30 percent carrying Lyme), the quickness with which powassa can be transmitted puts a premium on zapping the little buggers before they bite.

How do you keep them away? The Harvard Women’s Health Watch says:

Avoid wooded, bushy, or grassy areas whenever possible.

Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants if you do go into long grass or the woods.

Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.

Now you’re too scared to go into the woods, aren’t you?