The New York State Department of Health is trying to ease fears after samples showed ticks in Saratoga County were carrying the Powassan virus. Saratoga County is close to the areas of Manchester and Bennington, Vermont. 

“It’s not really a surprise that we found it in at least some of those ticks,” NYS DOH Epidemiologist Bryon Backenson said. “What I’m pleased at is that it was in so few ticks.”

The DOH collected samples from five locations in Saratoga County. Out of the 2,700 collected, 22 tested positive for Powassan. Backenson said that means the virus is still rare.

One Saratoga County man died from the virus in June, and two other patients contracted it in Saratoga County. Next year, the DOH said it will be ramping up its awareness for tick-borne illnesses by providing educational materials for children.

“It kind of has to be placed in schools and libraries, and the state education department is working on that curricula with us now,” Backenson said.

SUNY Adirondack Associated Prof. of Microbiology Holly Ahern said she’s concerned about the information the department might put in the educational material as there’s been a push to update guidelines for Lyme disease treatment.

“The department of health is using CDC information,” she said. “That’s based on 30-year-old outdated science.”

Ahern said more research about treatment for tick-borne illness is needed. Some medical professionals disagree on treatment guidelines.

“Maybe we could look further at ways to help the patient perspective as opposed to doing feel good measures about counting ticks,” Ahern said.

“There are physicians that fall on both sides of the coin with regards to treatment based on a tick bite,” Backenson said.

As always prevention is key. Carry bug spray with you – even if not going to a wooded area. And always check for ticks on your body.