Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Protect Yourself from Tick Bites — Borrelia miyamotoi and Powassan Viruses are New Tick-Borne Threats

Photographed at Watchung Reservation,
Union County, New Jersery
Image by James L. Occi
Heavy snow in the Northeast is of particular concern this year. Its been the snowiest ever for Boston, which received 108.6 inches. Snow insulates, so deep snow cover may have provided protection for blacklegged ticks, the deer ticks that are responsible for Lyme disease infections, from freezing. It may mean a greater number of ticks this May, June, and July.

Borrelia miyamotoi infections, first reported in the United States in 2013, are much like other tick infections, particularly Lyme disease. Borrelia miyamotoi virus is transmitted by blacklegged ticks and can be tricky to diagnose.

Powassan virus is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease. The virus, found in ticks inhabiting parts of the Northeast, and around the Great Lakes, is similar to Lyme disease. Doctors say its symptoms come on very sudden and can even be more severe. There is no known treatment or cure for patients who have contracted the virus.

Don’t be concerned of ticks flying on you: ticks are not able to fly or jump. Ticks climb on high grasses, waiting for animals and people to rub against them. They then climb onto the host’s body and attempt to imbed in the skin, feed, and engorge themselves with blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best tick bite prevention is to avoid ticks on your person, your pets, in your backyard, as well as places like parks, playgrounds, and campgrounds.

It’s important to know the safe way to remove a tick imbedded in the skin. First the unsafe way: when I was a child, a tick imbedded its head into my scalp. My uncle took a lit cigarette and applied the end to the blood-engorged tick. The tick backed out and everything was okay. However, if a tick imbeds in your skin, it would be advisable to follow the CDC’s recommendation: “… a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.” Here’s how.

Borrelia miyamotoi infection

Powassan virus took Maine woman's life

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