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The Powassan Virus in Minnesota

In the last ten years, a new tick-borne disease has been spreading and has now caused approximately 75 cases in the United States; 22 of which are in Minnesota. At Mosquito Squad of North Central Minnesota, we take both mosquito-borne viruses and tick-borne viruses very seriously.

What is the Powassan virus?

Powassan (POW) virus is a rare, but often serious disease that is caused by the bite of an infected tick.

How do people get Powassan virus?

People can get POW virus through the bite of a blacklegged (deer tick) that is infected with the virus. Not all ticks carry these viruses, and not all people that are bitten by a tick will get sick. 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 other tick-borne disease agents.

Where can you find blacklegged ticks?

The blacklegged tick can be found in many wooded areas of Minnesota. Blacklegged Ticks live on the ground in areas that are wooded or with lots of brush. The ticks search for hosts at or near ground level and grab onto a person or animal as they walk by. Ticks do not jump, fly, or fall from trees. In Minnesota, the months of April – July and September – October are the greatest risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick.

What are the symptom of Powassan virus?

Many people infected with Powassan virus may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. Symptoms of Powassan virus usually appear within 1-4 weeks of a tick bite. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
  • Meningitis (swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord)

Patients with severe disease may suffer long- term neurologic symptoms such as headaches and memory problems.

How is Powassan virus treated?
There is no specific medicine to cure or treat Powassan virus disease. Patients with severe illness may need supportive care such as hospitalization and respiratory support.

How can I reduce my risk?

Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against tick-borne diseases. Not only do we ant to educate the community but we also want to protect and prevent such viruses with our barrier treatment services. With our barrier treatment and tick tube treatment, we can eliminate up to 95% of the ticks in your yard.

Call Mosquito Squad of North Central Minnesota at 218-829-9342 to discuss your tick control needs! We’ll help you fight the tick bite spring, summer, and fall.

If you think you or your family members may have been infected contact your healthcare provider immediately.


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