Deadly Tick-Born Illness Spreading In The U.S.: Is Idaho At Risk?
The bad news? A deadly tick-born illness is now spreading across the country. The good news? Experts say it's not time to panic--yet.
Back in May, a Connecticut woman in her 90s was hospitalized with a strange variety of symptoms including: confusion, nausea, chest pain, chills, and fever. Then, two weeks later, on the 17th of May, she passed away. As it turns out, a blacklegged tick was responsible, a miniscule arachnid roughly the size of a sesame seed when it's full grown. It may be small, but it can be deadly or cause a lot of damage.
Blacklegged ticks, commonly referred to as deer ticks, bring with them a range of illnesses. They are probably best known for carrying Lyme Disease, a sickness that can be hard to diagnose and causes a rash, fatigue, fever, and other sometimes debilitating symptoms.
The tick that killed the Connecticut woman was carrying a disease much more rare and deadlier than Lyme Disease. The disease is called Powassan virus, or POWV. Blacklegged ticks carrying POWV reportedly kill one in 10 of the people who develop severe symptoms. It doesn't stop there. Half of those who survive a rough set of symptoms continue to experience the effects of the illness, such as loss of muscle mass and headaches for the rest of their lives.
That death was the second Powassan-related death in the U.S. so far this year. In April, somebody in Maine passed away after contracting the disease from a tick bite. While two deaths may not sound like a big deal, it is significant. Experts are seeing a rise in the disease that has them concerned, which means we should be, as well.
The 134 reported cases documented in the United States between 2016 and 2020 represent a number that is nearly 300-percent higher than the previous five-year period. These reported cases reported to the CDC are most likely the symptomatic cases, typically the ones that have people in the hospital.
Experts expect this trend to continue as warming temperatures are helping the ticks shift their ranges into new grounds and warmer winters are helping the parasites survive from one year to the next without dying out. Most Powassan cases have been diagnosed in the Northeast and the Great Lakes region, but cases have been recorded in North Dakota and North Carolina.
While we are still learning more about the disease, experts are saying we should be concerned. Saravanan Thangamani, director of the SUNY Center For Vector-Borne Diseases at SUNY Upstate Medical University, says, "In my opinion, people should be very very concerned. There's potential for it to become a major public health hazard."
He has seen cases on the rise in his own research. While it's not time to panic, it's good to be aware and concerned. It's best to familiarize yourself with ticks and understand where you will find them and how you can protect yourself from them.
I have prepared some Tick Tips below to help educate you on Ticks and Tick Prevention. Below, you'll find tips on what to do before heading out on a hike or into the woods, and what you can do after to help prevent ticks latching or biting you.
The most important thing is understanding where you're likely to run into ticks. Let's dive into these safety tips that you should familiarize yourself will and will not only keep you and your loved ones safe, but will keep you worry free. You don't want to be up all night wondering if a tick is on you. Follow these tips and you can sleep safe and sound at night, without worrying about ticks.
Tips To Prevent Ticks
Ticks aren't the only bug you need to be on the look out for here in Idaho, however. You'll need to be alert for these, as well.