What is Powassan Virus?

May 29, 2023

A person in the US recently died from the rare Powassan virus, marking the first fatal case in the US this year.

About Powassan Virus Disease:

  • It is a rare, yet often serious disease that is spread by the bite of infected ticks
  • The Powassan virus, often called a ticking time bomb, is named after Powassan, Ontario where it was first discovered in 1958
  • How do people get affected?
    • Not all ticks carry these viruses and not all people 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. 
  • Symptoms:
    • People in the initial days can experience symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting, and weakness.
    • The virus can further cause brain infection (encephalitis) or form the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
    • In severe cases, patients can suffer from confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures.
  • Treatment:
    • There are no medications to prevent or treat Powassan virus infection.
    • Rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain medications may relieve some symptoms.