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What You Need to Know About the Rare Tick-Borne Infection That’s Hit NJ

Find out what it is and how to protect your family


Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Spring means being outdoors with the kids, but it also means tick season. You’ve already heard of Lyme disease, but what about Powassan (POW)? This rare and potentially lethal bug has made its way to NJ.

This virus affects one’s nervous system, thinking, balance and memory. Worst case scenario? It can kill its victims, as it did one patient in Minnesota via brain swelling. And even if it doesn’t kill the victim, half of those afflicted will have long-term neurological damage for life 

The Garden State is one of nine states that has reported infections, having three reported cases thus far in both Sussex and Warren counties. Your family is most susceptible to the virus in late spring, early summer and mid-fall, all times when ticks are most active.

As if it couldn’t get any scarier, many people with POW don’t develop any symptoms. Nevertheless, those symptoms can include fever, speech problems, seizures, weakness and vomiting. The virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord).

Thankfully the virus is rare, but you should still be vigilant about looking for signs and avoiding contact with ticks. There are no vaccines or medicines to treat the infection, but you should still go to your doctor for an evaluation if you’re suspicious. But the best kind of medicine is preventative, so be sure to avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass where ticks are more likely to lurk, wear long sleeves and pants when out in nature, walk in the center of trails and use tick repellant.


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