WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) – Have you heard of the Powassan virus? It is now appearing in our area. You may be infected by a tick bite and it can be deadly.
The rare virus can infect a person within the first 15 minutes after a tick bite and up to 12 hours thereafter.
Powassan is far more dangerous than Lyme disease, which causes brain swelling.
It was deadly to a man from New Jersey, and we now know that Northern Virginia is dealing with his first patient of the year.
There have been about 75 cases in the United States in the past decade, mainly in the Great Lakes region and the Northeast.
"What changes is the presence of the virus in the rodent population and the mammalian ticks are exposed to it," said Floyd Shockley of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. "To my knowledge, nobody has proven why climate change is possible as usual, but how much can I not say."
Shockley is surprised we did not have any registered cases in Maryland or West Virginia.
Powassan's symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss.
Experts recommend using anti-tick agents and long sleeves and pants to wear regular tick controls after staying outdoors.
It is important to note that Powassan disease is not transmitted from person to person.