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Cary Brunswick

August 20, 2013

Lyme disease isn't the only tick malaise


Experts say that a tick must be attached to a person for about 36 hours for the disease to be transmitted. That means careful monitoring of your body can be an effective means of prevention.

But now there is a new, deadlier, more-quickly transmitted tick-borne disease called Powassan Encephalitis that has caught the attention of health officials and lawmakers.

It is likely that Powassan is what took my old friend, though officially he died of a “rare, progressive, degenerative neurological disorder.” 

There have been only about 15 confirmed cases in the past decade, but that number is slowly rising. The most recent victims were in Dutchess and Saratoga counties, and that helped motivate Sen. Charles Schumer to call on the CDC to immediately allocate resources toward the study, prevention and treatment of the emerging Powassan virus threat. 

He also announced his support for federal legislation to direct more resources and attention toward fighting back against the growing problem of other tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease.

Symptoms of the Powassan virus, according to health experts, are similar to those of meningitis or Eastern Equine Encephalitis: confusion, headaches, dizziness, neck pain — all caused by a swelling of the brain that could be fatal or lead to long-term neurological disorders. Like many viruses, there is no known cure, and doctors can only treat the symptoms.

Unlike Lyme disease, it is possible to contract the Powassan virus within minutes of a tick bite.

“Already, Lyme disease is one of the least-understood illnesses plaguing residents in the Hudson Valley and the entire Northeast. Now, with the emerging threat of newer tick-borne illnesses like Powassan virus and antibiotic-resistant strains of Lyme, the need for more research is clear and compelling,” Schumer said.

The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act would help fight the growing epidemic by improving and expanding the government’s efforts to contain the spread of these and other tick-borne illnesses. 

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Cary Brunswick

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