A virus more dangerous than Lyme disease is becoming more prevalent in ticks in Central New York.
New York State is tied for the second-most reported cases of the Powassan virus— a tick-borne illness that was first reported 60 years ago.
The virus wasn’t a huge concern back then, but it is becoming so now— the virus has been discovered in the type if ticks that most commonly infect people.
One in ten people who get the virus will die, and half will suffer severe brain damage. Once the tick latches on, Lyme disease takes 24 hours to be transmitted. But with Powassan, it only takes 15 minutes.
Brian Leydet, a professor at SUNY ESF, says you aren’t likely to find the ticks in areas where the grass is short and frequently mowed. You’re likely to find them in areas of overgrown brush and woods.
“Be aware. If you’re outside and there’s brush, there’s ticks, and if you see them, pick them off and throw them away,” Leydet said.
However, he says it’s not all bad news— the virus exists in only about four percent of ticks. Only 75 people have been infected since the virus was discovered.
“Right now, we’re not going to have a huge outbreak, it’s not going to be next day we’re going to have hundreds and hundreds of people presenting,” Leydet said.
Long sleeves are the best way to protect yourself, even if it’s hot and sunny.
If you’re bitten by a tick, you should use tweezers to remove it, drop it in a plastic bag and put it in your freezer.
When you go to the doctor, bring the tick with you. They can send it to a lab to be examined, making sure you’re getting the proper diagnosis.