Doctors are warning the public about a tick-born illness that poses a much more serious health risk than Lyme Disease.
Known as the Powassan virus, blacklegged ticks (as well as groundhog ticks) are increasingly carrying the potentially deadly disease.
The rare virus falls under the same family as the West Nile virus and has symptoms similar to those of Lyme disease. However the virus acts extremely rapidly – people can begin to feel symptoms in just a matter of minutes – and the symptoms are severe. The incurable disease attacks the central nervous system and can cause vomiting, fever, headache, weakness, confusion, seizures, swelling of the brain and memory loss.
Currently, there are only around 50 people affected in the U.S. each year (compared to the estimated 20,000 people who are affected by Lyme disease) and there have only been 16 human cases reported in Eastern Canada, since it was first detected in Ontario back in 1958. Ten percent of people contracting Powassan virus die.
There has been a noticeable spike in the virus in 2015, with the virus being detected in the upper mid-west, Northeast and Great Lakes area of the U.S.
Although contracting the virus is still extremely rare, because of the potential for fatalities, authorities are warning people to take extra precautions to prevent becoming infected.
Health experts are recommending people use tick repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when spending time in wooded or bushy areas.
They also advise to take your clothes off and shower when home after spending time in the woods or areas that have ticks. Clothes can also be put into the dryer for at least an hour on high heat to kill the ticks.
Pets should also be checked for ticks if they accompany you on walks in wooded areas or regularly go outside.
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