Summer is nearly here, and it’s bringing fears of a rare tick-borne disease called Powassan. This potentially life-threatening virus is carried and transmitted by three types of ticks, including the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease.
Over the past decade, 75 cases have been reported in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though no one can say how many infections will occur this year, warmer winters have led to an increased tick population, so experts predict rising tick-borne infections of many types.
Health officials ramp up testing for rare Powassan virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it’s broadening screening for Powassan virus in the tiny, blood-sucking arachnids to include blacklegged ticks.
Human cases of the virus, which can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, have been reported this spring in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine, prompting several other states to be on the lookout for the disease.
The virus was first identified in 1958 in Powassan, Ont., where a child who contracted the disease later died.
Since then, only 16 human cases have been reported in Canada.
But health officials say the numbers of blacklegged ticks have expanded rapidly in Canada over the last 10 years.
Powassan virus has been detected in groundhog ticks and blacklegged ticks from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.