Ticks Carrying Powassan Virus Found in Vermont

Burlington, Vt. -

Health officials say researchers have found that one-percent of ticks in Vermont carry a potentially deadly virus called Powassan (POW).

Health officials say the virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. People with severe cases most often need to be hospitalized to deal with confusion, seizures, memory loss, and even swelling of the brain.

According to Vermont’s infectious disease epidemiologist Bradley Tompkins, the ticks that tested positive for Powassan were found in Chittenden and Windsor counties in the spring of 2016.

Tompkins noted that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) tested all counties in the state last year, however, he said because more ticks were found in those two counties—there was a better chance of turning up positive ticks.

"We want people out in the landscape of Vermont enjoying it too, but we want them to do it safely,” said Bradley Tompkins, infectious disease epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health. “Anytime that people are outside in that kind of environment where they might encounter ticks, that might be a hike through the woods, it might be a walk through a field, or even could be someone's backyard, anytime people are out there we want them to take the proper steps to protect themselves.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 cases of the POW virus were reported in the United States over the past 10 years. The CDC says most cases have been reported in the northeastern and Great Lakes regions of the United States during late spring, early summer, and mid-fall when ticks are most active.

Tompkins says protection should include wearing light-colored clothes, and long sleeve shirts and long pants.  Tomkins says you can use a tick repellant with Deet, and recommends doing a full body check whenever you're done outside. 

For more information about the virus, and tick prevention, click here.  

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