According to recent reports, every year in the United States, more than 20,000 people get infected with Lyme disease
, a painful but treatable tick-borne illness. But now, experts are warning of a faster-acting, untreatable and potentially fatal sickness called Powassan virus.
The Powassan virus is carried by 2-3% of the tick that carries also the Lyme disease. In comparison, almost 40% of these ticks carry the Lyme disease. The Powassan virus can be transmitted, like Lyme disease, if a person is bitten by an infected tick.
While people with Lyme disease develop lesions and a rash, those who get Powassan virus do not. If a person gets bitten by a tick that carries the Powassan virus, within 2-3 hours, that person will experience symptoms like nausea, headaches, muscle weakness, vomiting, speech difficulties and memory loss. In severe cases, the virus will attack the person’s nervous system and which will lead to brain and spine inflammations, which will eventually lead to encephalitis meningitis.
"The doctor just has to support you during that acute illness and hope that you survive,” said Dr. Daniel Cameron of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. He said that unlike Lyme disease which can infect a person in a few days after the tick has attached itself to the person’s skin, Powassan Virus can transmit the disease within minutes.
The emerging tick-borne illness is starting to show up around the Great Lakes and Connecticut. Experts suggest using bug spray, wearing long pants and long sleeves outdoors, avoiding wooded areas, and checking yourself for ticks after you’ve spent time outside.