JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Local experts are warning people to take precautions to avoid tick bites to help reduce the risk of contracting the tick-borne virus, Powassan.
“You could range from having no symptoms whatsoever to being very sick, having inflammation of the brain tissue,” said Dr. Vandana Bhide with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
Bhide said the virus used to only be carried by ticks that did not bite humans, however, that has changed.
“Now it can bite humans and it can transmit this viral infection,” Bhide said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms can appear a week to a month after a tick bite. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. In severe cases, the virus can lead to inflammation of the brain, known as encephalitis.
“You could have seizures and there can be either temporary or permanent kind of brain damage because it is a very severe infection,” Bhide said.
The Powassan virus is rare. According to the CDC, there have only been 75 cases reported in the United States in the last decade.
However, since there is no specific treatment for the virus, Bhide recommends taking precautions to prevent tick bites to begin with. Those measures include wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding heavily-wooded areas and checking yourself and other people or animals for ticks after time outdoors.