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More Than Lyme Disease: Other Tick-Borne Illnesses on the Rise in the U.S.

Here in the Northeast, when someone mentions tick-borne illness (getting sick from the bite of a tick), the first thing that comes to mind is Lyme Disease. We are not downplaying the significance of Lyme Disease infection or diagnosis here in Massachusetts, however, there are other tick-borne illnesses that can make you sick. According to recent data, those infections are on the rise.

A riveting article recently featured by NPR tells the story of a healthy 24-year-old Cape Cod native who fell gravely ill after finding two ticks attached to his leg. He detected the ticks in June and by September was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in a coma. Doctors scrambled to learn what was wrong with this otherwise healthy young man. After many tests, and while he was attached to life support in the hospital’s ICU, his mysterious illness was finally diagnosed as Powassan Virus.

In this particular case, the young man made a full recovery from the virus.

What is POW?

Powassan Virus (POW) is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 75 cases of POW Virus have been reported in the United States over the past 10 years. Most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. POW Virus is attributed to the cycle between ticks and small-to-medium-sized rodents. In the Northeast, the virus is associated with the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) and its cycle of infection with woodchucks, squirrels or white-footed mice. The largest incidence is among white-footed mice because they are less likely to remove the ticks during grooming, unlike other rodents.

Signs and symptoms of POW infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe POW Virus illnesses often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.

Powassan Virus is just one of the many tick-borne illnesses on the rise. These include Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and a bacterium related to Lyme, which causes similar symptoms. The world is in a new age of infectious diseases. Over the past 60 years, the number of new emerging diseases per decade has almost quadrupled. The number of disease outbreaks each year has more than tripled since 1980. The United States is no exception. Our country is a hotspot for tick-borne diseases. In the past 50 years, scientists have detected at least a dozen new diseases transmitted by ticks. We are in an era when we have to be more proactive, knowledgeable and aware of our surroundings in order to maintain good health.

You can reduce your risk of being infected with a tick-borne illness by reducing the likelihood of coming into contact with ticks on your property. At Mosquito Squad of Boston Metro South, we use a combination of tick control techniques to get rid of ticks in your yard and keep them from coming back. First, we treat your entire property with our barrier control treatment, which eliminates adult ticks on contact.

Once the barrier treatment is in place, we can place tick tubes in strategic locations throughout your yard to entice mice. The biodegradable tubes are filled with treated cotton that the mice will naturally use to build their nests. Most juvenile ticks get their first taste of blood from mice, so they are exposed to the treatment when they go to feed. This effective combination helps keep ticks off your property by up to 90%, eliminating the source of vector-borne illness.

Our effective proactive approach will help keep you, your family and your pets protected from ticks and mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Call Mosquito Squad of Boston Metro South today at (781) 297-0123 or email us at [email protected]. You can also fill out a contact form by clicking Alert the Squad to your left.

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