The Powassan Virus: What is it & How Can I Prevent it?

Powassan (POW) virus is a rare, but often serious disease that is spread by infected ticks. POW virus is one of a group of arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) that can cause swelling of the brain. The virus was first recognized in the small town of Powassan, Ontario in 1958. Due to its ability to cause encephalitis, it was and still is considered a very serious tick-borne illness.

What is the Powassan Virus?

POW is currently the only well-documented tick-borne transmitted arbovirus (virus spread by blood-feeding insects like mosquitoes and ticks) occurring in the United States and Canada. It is not common in humans, but there have been a few human cases in the last decade. A human who contracts the virus may develop encephalitis, which can cause residual neurological problems in patients who are able to recover.

What are the Symptoms?

Many people who become infected do not develop any symptoms but it can cause swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). These other symptoms may occur:

  • high fever
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • loss of coordination
  • speech difficulties
  • seizures
  • stiff neck
  • tremors
  • paralysis
  • coma
  • death

Reduce Chance of Infection

  • Use an EPA approved repellent containing DEET and remember to re-apply every few hours
  • Wear protective clothing treated with permethrin when outdoors (will last a few washings)
  • Check thoroughly for ticks (especially the hair) on your body after being outdoors
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after being outdoors
  • Empty or drain water-holding containers around your house
  • Keep vegetation around your house from becoming overgrown
  • Comb through clothing, gear, and pets

ARCPOINT LABS OF KANSAS CITY PROVIDES WELLNESS TESTING FOR INDIVIDUALS, INCLUDING SCREENING FOR MOST MAJOR HEALTH RISKS. THERE ARE NO DOCTOR’S ORDERS, APPOINTMENTS, OR INSURANCE NEEDED TO VISIT OUR FACILITY FOR ACCURATE LAB TESTING.

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