NEW YORK — It spreads like Lyme disease, but doctors say it’s even worse. Ticks in parts of the northeastern U.S. and around the Great Lakes have been found to carry a rare and potentially life-threatening virus.
CBS2 New York reports, doctors warn that the Powassan virus can come on with very sudden, severe symptoms. There is no known treatment or cure.
“The doctor just has to support you during the acute illness and hope that you survive,” Dr. Daniel Cameron explained.
Cameron is president of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. He said that if bitten by a Powassan-infected tick, you can get the virus within a matter of minutes, and while the symptoms are similar to Lyme disease, they are more severe.
“You can get seizures, high fevers, stiff neck. It comes on so suddenly that it’s the kind of thing people go to the emergency room for,” he explained.
Researchers with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station said the Powassan virus is starting to show up in Bridgeport and Branford. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has also been seen around the Great Lakes, primarily in late spring, early summer, and mid-fall, when ticks are most active.
Only about 50 cases of Powassan have been reported in the U.S. in the last 10 years.
“I couldn’t imagine having something worse than this. It sounds really awful,” Lyme disease patient Jennifer Cirigliano said.
Cirigliano was diagnosed with Lyme disease 2 years ago. The 15-year-old said it’s been a long road of recovery.
“I was getting scared that there could be seriously something wrong,” she said.
Now, with this emerging tick-borne illness, doctors say there’s even more reason to be on the lookout throughout the spring and summer.
“Be more vigilant about checking. I can’t stay indoors. Summer is the time to be outside,” one woman said.
There are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Experts suggest using bug spray, wearing long pants and long sleeves outdoors, avoiding wooded areas, and checking yourself for ticks after you’ve spent time outside.
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