About the Powassan (Pow) Virus

Powassan can take effect in as little as 15 minutes compared to the Lyme bacterium which may take 24-48 hours.

With the month of May being Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and summer around the corner, we want to discuss a new tick-borne illness that has worried researchers. This new worry is the Powassan virus - an immediate problem for the New England Area in the United States.

The Powassan (Pow) virus in deer ticks is a much rarer pathogen than the bacterium that produces Lyme; but it can be deadly and works much quicker. The virus can cause neurological problems, permanent disability and even death. In fact, 50-60 percent of cases have led to disability and 10 percent have led to fatality. The Powassan virus has no treatment at this time.

There have been 25 reported cases of the Pow virus in Canada with 75 in the United States. (There were 800 reported cases of Lyme Disease in Canada in 2016 alone.)

Although new to Americans, the virus was first reported in 1958 in Powassan, ON - a child was infected with an unexplained inflammation of the brain. It wasn't considered a big deal at the time because ticks weren't reportedly biting humans.

As the chart shows below, the virus has been detected in the Northeastern region of the United States. In 2012, Connecticut reported 19% of deer ticks were infected with Lyme Disease and 29% infected with the Powassan virus.

Symptoms of Powassan are similar to Lyme Disease. The problem is that Lyme has been misdiagnosed by heathcare providers because the illness contains flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Loss of Memory/Confusion
  • Speech issues
  • Numbness

The best thing people can do to avoid the Powassan virus is to avoid deer and tick bites at all costs. This means that homeowners should install a deer fence around their properties Hikers should wear bright, long-sleeved clothing to easily detect ticks and spray DEET repellent products when staying outside for long periods of time.