By: News Director Larissa Donovan
The Powassan virus, a tick-borne illness, is on the rise, with 20 confirmed cases in Minnesota.
The virus was confirmed in Cass and Clearwater counties, and four other Minnesota counties close to the Twin Cities metro.
The disease is named after the Canadian town where it first appeared in 1958.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, carrier ticks are often the deer, or blacklegged, tick. Symptoms of Powassan virus include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, seizures, encephalitis (the swelling of the brain) and meningitis (swelling of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord).
Deer or blacklegged ticks are active from April to October, with June and July being peak months for tick activity. They range in size from about the size of a poppyseed to the size of a sesame seed. Ticks do not fall from trees or jump–they lurk on blades of grass near the ground and wait for passing humans or animals to walk by.
There is currently no human vaccine for Powassan virus, nor is there any specific medicine used to treat it. Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense.
MDH recommends using a repellent with up to 30 percent DEET, and to pretreat clothing and gear with permethrin-based repellants. Talk to your veterinarian about safe and effective methods for tick prevention for your animals.