New Tick-Borne Disease Discovered◀ Back To Blog
May 19, 2014
A recent survey of consumers by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) found that 44 percent of respondents have or know someone who has been bitten by a tick. Of those, the majority, 54%, live in the Northeast region of the country. Lyme Disease, a tick-borne disease on the rise reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now scientists believe they have discovered a new threat from the blacklegged ticks called the Lineage II Powassan virus.
In a recently published paper in the journal Parasites and Vectors, researchers suggest that the Powassan virus is responsible for a number of human infections throughout the Hudson Valley in New York state. According to the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, the virus can cause nervous system disruption, encephalitis, and meningitis in humans. There is a 10 to 15 percent fatality rate in documented cases and some survivors are left with permanent neurological damage.
Rick Ostfeld, one of the paper’s authors said, “We’ve seen a rise in this rare but serious illness in parts of New York State that are hot spots for Lyme disease.” “We suspected it was tied to an increase in blacklegged ticks carrying deer tick virus, particularly on the east side of the Hudson River.”
Ostfeld and his team surveyed more than 13,000 individual ticks from a variety of hosts over a period of five years. Along with deer, the blacklegged tick can also be found on small critters such as raccoons, foxes, birds, and even domestic animals. According to the CDC, ticks will often prefer different hosts at each stage of their life and risk of human infection is highest during the creature’s nymph stage. Ticks primarily find hosts by waiting in well-traveled areas with their first pair of legs outstretched. When a suitable host passes by the tick climbs aboard and attaches itself to the unwary victim.
The tick will begin feeding in as quickly as 10 minutes’ time. If the tick carries the illness, Lyme disease can be transmitted within a few hours or up to two days. Oftentimes, this gives victims a “grace period” to remove the tick and possibly avoid being infected. The American Lyme Disease Foundation advises that if a tick has become attached but not yet engorged with blood, it is likely that it has not yet transmitted Lyme disease. Unfortunately, the Powassan virus is not as patient. Unlike many of the common illnesses transmitted by ticks, the virus transmission can take as little as 15 minutes.
“There is no vaccine or specific antiviral therapy,” said Ostfield. “The best strategy remains prevention.”
While the Powassan virus is rare compared to Lyme disease, Ostfeld remains worried that the virus will spread beyond the state.
“The infection prevalence of about 1 percent to 6 percent among these ticks is low compared with Lyme disease, which often is found in 30 percent to 50 percent of ticks, but it’s still alarmingly high, giving you a one in 20 chance that the tick biting you might be transmitting a deadly virus,” Ostfeld told MedPage Today.
So far the Hudson River seems to provide a natural barrier preventing the virus from traveling west, but Ostfeld says historically deer ticks proved able to spread despite such obstacles.
“Therefore, we might expect Powassan to move across the Hudson into western New York and potentially elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions like the other tick-borne diseases,” Ostfeld said.
Even though tick season typically takes place from May to September, residents in and around Albany should practice tick prevention. Avoid getting tick bites by following tick preventative measures year-round:
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses. Choose light colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks and other insects.
- Wear a bug spray containing at least 20% DEET when outdoors, and reapply as directed on the label.
- When hiking, stay in the center of trails, away from vegetation.
- Take steps to keep your own yard tick-free. Keep grass cut low and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and other pests.
- Be on the lookout for signs of tick bites, such as a telltale red bull's eye rash around a bite. If you suspect a tick has bitten you follow proper tick removal procedures and seek medical attention.
- Learn the symptoms of the most common tick-borne illnesses and consult with your doctor immediately if you believe you are ill following a tick bite.
Although these tips can help you avoid run-ins with both ticks, they will not eliminate your chances entirely. To protect your home, your family and your pets from the diseases spread by ticks, we recommend preventative measures coupled with our tick control services. Our program includes a thorough inspection of your property to evaluate the conditions that may be inviting these pests. Treatments are performed around the structure and property to help achieve tick and mosquito control for your home. Please contact us today to learn more about tick control in Albany and to schedule your first service.