The virus is called Powassan and is spread to humans through tick bites. Tick bites commonly cause redness, itching and swelling, but the symptoms are greatly compounded by a bite from an infected tick.
In addition to the Powassan virus, tick bites can infect the victim with Lyme Disease -- in which symptoms of lethargy and aching joints may not develop for weeks -- and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Most tick bites are not dangerous. Once the tick is removed, the bite can be treated with a common antiseptic or rubbing alcohol. If the bitten area becomes infected or inflamed and remains so for more than a couple of days, medical attention should be sought.
When removing a tick it is important to make sure the head does not break off from the body and remain imbedded in the flesh. That is the cause of most infections.
The best way to remove a tick is with tweezers, grasping it as close to the head as possible and making sure the head is removed with the body.
During warm weather ticks thrive everywhere outdoors in Tennessee. They are particularly prevalent in grassy and brushy areas. They lie on weeds and other low-growing vegetation and attach themselves to animals or humans that brush against them.
After returning home from an outdoors excursion it is prudent to inspect for ticks. Check especially close around wait-bands and socks.
Larger ticks are dark brown and can be easily spotted. Smaller ticks, however, can go undetected until they bite and cause a red, itching bump.
A hot, soapy shower or bath can remove ticks that are not latched on, but won’t dislodge ticks that have already mired into flesh.
There are a number of precautions that can be taken to lessen the chances of picking up a tick, starting with using a good insect repellent before heading outdoors. Liberally spray ankles and legs, where most ticks latch on, along with other area of the body. Re-spray every couple of hours.
When walking through thick weeds and grass, long pants will help keep ticks off, especially if the pants legs are tucked into the tops of socks. Wearing light-colored clothing makes hitchhiking ticks easier to spot.
Once home from the trip, immediately wash the clothing that was worn; leaving it on the floor or in a clothes hamper will allow any ticks aboard to drop off and perhaps latch on later.
After a hot, soapy bath or shower to get rid of any ticks that haven’t latched on, conduct a thorough body-search to look for any attached tickets. If found, remove with finger tips or – preferably – tweezers.
Treat the bite with antiseptic or alcohol and check periodically over the next few days for spreading redness and swelling that could indicate infection. In such an event, seek medical consultation.
Lyme Disease, while not fatal, can be painful and debilitating and some patients require months to recover. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can likewise be serious, and the newly –diagnosed Powassan virus even more-so.
A tick bite is nothing to trifle with.