BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It is the season for tick-borne illnesses and this year- there’s a higher risk for a rare disease called Powassan.
There’s never been a case found in Western New York since it first started being tracked in the early 90’s. This can be potentially deadly, and there has really no cure for it either.
Plus this, everyone is at risk for Powassan, including newborns, 20-somethings, the middle-aged, and the elderly.
We went to the Erie County Health Commissioner to find out how you can keep your family safe. Dr. Gale Burstein said, Powassan is even worse than Lyme disease. She said, “It can cause more severe neurological symptoms as Lyme disease.”
The virus was first discovered in Ontario in 1958. Luckily, it hasn’t shown up in Western New York.
She said, “Fortunately, we haven’t had a case yet, that doesn’t mean that we will never have a case but so far it isn’t something we’ve seen in our area.”
The US Centers For Disease Control l says there have been 75 cases reported in the northeastern states and great lakes area over the past decade.
It’s something doctors and scientists are still studying. “There are some people who don’t develop any symptoms when they are affected by the Powassan virus and we don’t really understand why some people develop symptoms and others do not.”
About 15% of patients who are infected and have symptoms are not going survive. Of the survivors, at least 50% will have long-term neurological damage that is not going to resolve.
Though no one can say how many infections we will see this year, experts say, warmer winters have led to an increased tick population, so they’re predicting more cases this year.
Dr. Burstein said, “We’ve been having earlier springs and milder winters the wildlife including insects may have more opportunity to start reproducing earlier in the year than they would in the past.”
Prevention is key. Dr Burstein says cover yourself when you’re outside. Avoid high brushy areas whenever you’re in the woods, wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible, use insect repellent and do tick checks after you’re outdoors.