Rare, potentially-deadly tick-borne disease Powassan found in New York, New Jersey

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Rare, potentially deadly tick-bone disease powassan found in New York, New Jersey
Amy Freeze has the story

NEW YORK -- Tick season is here and experts warn this year could be one of the worst yet.

A rare disease called Powassan is spread by the same tick that carries Lyme disease.

Powassan attacks the nervous system, affecting memory, thinking and balance -- and in some cases, it can be deadly. The virus is spread through deer ticks and there is no treatment for it. The biggest number of cases reported to the CDC in recent years have been from New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are also among the states with cases of Powassan virus.

Warm weather in 2016 led to a booming acorn crop in wooded areas. Research teams out of the Carey Institute found more acorns boosted the white footed mice populations who live on the forest floor - where ticks are waiting to jump aboard the mice - it's the mice that infect ticks with diseases.

"There is no treatment, so there is a difference between Lyme and Powassan," registered nurse Kristi Kromholz said. "It's just supportive measures for somebody, and about 10 to 15 percent of people that do get affected do have life-long neurological conditions afterward."

Experts and many doctors say they are seeing more tick activity earlier this year.

If you go into woods or high grass, be sure to wear insect repellent with DEET, and check yourself from head-to-toe afterward. Also make sure to protect and check your pets.