Tick Alert: How to Stay Safe Against a New Tick Virus This Summer

Scientists have a worrisome prediction for the upcoming summer months – they’re expecting an unprecedented surge in the tick population. This means it’s more important than ever to take precautions to keep yourself tick and Lyme-disease free, as well as protected against other dangerous tick-borne diseases, such as Powassan disease.

Although still relatively rare, with only 75 confirmed cases in the past decade, scientists believe the incidence of Powassan will increase alongside the tick population. Powassan can be deadly, and because it’s a viral disease, medical professionals possess limited resources for prevention and treatment.

The dangers of Powassan disease

Powassan is caused by a virus found in tick saliva. If you’re bitten by a tick carrying this virus, symptoms can appear anywhere from one week to one month after the bite. Powassan is more prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States, where all confirmed cases have occurred so far.

Signs and symptoms of Powassan include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. It can also cause encephalitis, which is fatal in 10% of cases. Approximately half of those who get the virus deal with long-term neurological damage, including recurring headaches, muscle wasting, facial tics, blurry vision, and memory problems.

Preventing Powassan

The first line of defense against all tick-borne diseases is extreme caution and prevention. To reduce your likelihood of tick exposure, you should:

  • Avoid thick vegetation, high grass, and leaf litter
  • Hike in the center of trails
  • Use natural tick repellents
  • Immediately check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors
  • Take a shower after spending time in tick-heavy areas
  • Remove attached ticks ASAP to reduce disease transmission time
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks
  • Wear long sleeves and pants to prevent ticks from attaching to you
  • Throw your clothes in the dryer after spending time in tick-heavy areas

Even with these precautions in place, those who enjoy the outdoors may still occasionally find ticks on themselves. It’s essential to support your immune system to fight off potential tick-borne pathogens before they have a chance to cause significant damage.

Most people exposed to the bacteria behind Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferiis) and the Powassan virus don’t develop any symptoms or life-threatening illness. This may be due to having an effective immune system rather than one that’s sluggish or overburdened. To build a strong, pathogen-resistant immune system, consider the following measures:

  • Keep stress levels down
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Stay hydrated
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D and vitamin C
  • Take probiotics
  • Use natural antibiotics and antivirals for immune-system maintenance, such as olive leaf extract, Pau D’Arco, Echinacea, or garlic

With tick populations expected to rise this summer, ensuring that you’re taking the necessary precautions and supporting your immune system is crucial to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases such as Powassan. Stay vigilant and continue enjoying the outdoors without risking long-term health consequences.