Ticks are now carrying a new, potentially deadly virus in our area, according to News 10.

According to researchers at the Wadsworth Center, the deer tick virus, also known as Powassan virus, has been found in Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia Counties.

Researchers who worked on a five-year study say that the amount of ticks with this deadly virus are increasing, and if someone have been bitten by a deer tick, there is a one in 20 chance that it has the fatal illness.

Dr. Laura Kramer at the Wadsworth Center says the person with the virus died within 8 months of severe symptoms. Kramer says the virus ultimately leads to death in about 10 to 30 percent of the cases.

Another alarming result of Kramer's study is the virus is transmitted at a rapid rate, compared to the two days it takes for Lyme Disease.

How do people get infected with Powassan Virus in New York?

POW virus is passed to people by ticks:

  • One type of POW virus is carried by Ixodes scapularis (known as the blacklegged tick or deer tick), the same tick that transmits Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. The blacklegged tick is common in many wooded areas.
  • Another type of POW virus is carried by Ixodes cookei, a related tick species that usually feeds on woodchucks or other medium-sized mammals instead of humans.
  • A tick needs to be attached to a person for a certain length of time before it can cause disease. This time interval is not known for POW virus, but it is likely much shorter than the time needed for Lyme disease (24-48 hours) or anaplasmosis (12-24 hours).
  • POW virus infects the central nervous system and can cause encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and meningitis (swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).
  • Signs and symptoms of disease caused by POW virus can include but are not limited to fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and memory loss.
  • About 10% of patients reported with POW virus infection die from their infection, and long-term problems may persist among those who survive. However, it is possible that some people infected with POW virus experience milder illness or do not have any symptoms.

How common is Powassan Virus in New York?

Powassan virus, has been found in New York, partically close to home in Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia Counties.

When and where are people at risk for Powassan Virus in New York?

It is possible that people are at risk of infection with POW virus anywhere the blacklegged tick is found. The blacklegged tick is common in many wooded and brushy areas of New York. This tick is most active from spring until mid-summer and again in the fall.

How can people protect themselves from POW virus and other tick-borne infections?

Insect Repellents are important tools in preventing tick-borne illness. They are especially important in preventing POW disease because of its severity and likely shorter tick attachment time needed to transmit the virus. When spending time in wooded or brushy habitat, people should protect themselves against tick bites by wearing repellents containing DEET or permethrin.

Other precautions include wearing long pants and light-colored clothing, staying away from the brush and woods, and doing thorough tick checks after spending time in the woods. These precautions are most important from late spring until mid-summer, and again in the fall months, when blacklegged ticks are active.

People should seek medical care if they develop fever, chills, rash, headache, body aches altered mental status, or other signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness after doing outdoor activities in these areas.

Living in and around the Capital Region it is inevitable you will come across ticks. Unfortunately, keeping these insects away from your property is nearly impossible, but our pest management services can help. With simple precautions you can potentially avoid encounters with these biting insects. Thomas Pest Services, your Saratoga pest control experts can help reduce you and your families’ risk. If you live in Clifton Park or elsewhere in the Capital Region and need assistance getting rid of ticks , fill out our contact form today!