Powassan virus in New Jersey: Two Cases Confirmed

In New Jersey two Powassan virus infectin cases have been confirmed. According to official sources, the two cases of Powassan virus infection have been reported in Sussex County. One of the people who tested positive for the virus died in May, but the immediate cause of death had not yet been determined, while a second person confirmed positive for the Powassan virus is currently recovering from it.

In the United States, cases of Powassan infection have been reported mainly in the northeastern states and the Great Lakes region, with the most neuroinvasive cases reported in Minnesota (32 cases), Wisconsin (22 cases), Massachusetts (16 cases) and New York (16 cases).

There is no specific medicine to cure or treat Powassan virus disease. Treatment for serious illnesses may include hospitalization, respiratory assistance and intravenous fluids.

Reminders about the Powassan virus

Powassan virus of the genus Flavivirus is transmitted to humans by infected ticks (Ixodes). It is responsible for a neurological tropism. Apart from humans, many animals can harbor this virus: marmots, hares, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks, as well as domestic cats and dogs.

The disease is present in North America in Canada, in the United States with more than 40 cases since 1952, and in Russia. The seasonal incidence varies according to the activity of ticks (Ixodes cookei, Ixodes marxi, Ixodes spinipalpus) that serve as vectors, higher in rural or forest areas and the risk of transmission is highest from June to September.

After an incubation period of 7 to 14 days, encephalitis appears with mild fever, headache or aseptic meningitis.

Clinical signs of the infection may include fever, headache, vomiting, confusional syndrome, seizures, and memory loss. Neurological sequelae can occur. There is no specific treatment, there is no vaccine.

The disease occurs mainly in forest areas with a seasonal occurrence (maximum transmission from June to September) corresponding to the activity of ticks (Ixodes cookei, Ixodes marxi, Ixodes spinipalpus).

Ticks live in forests and undergrowth, tall grass, but also on golf courses and in public gardens.

To reduce the risk of getting infected, travelers are advised to

  • Wear clothing covering the skin and socks on the bottom of the pants
  • Avoid grass and bushes
  • Use a repellent containing 50% DEET on the exposed parts and an insecticide containing permethrin on clothing
  • Check regularly for the presence of ticks on the body (thighs, arms, armpits and legs)
  • If a tick is present, remove it with a “tick clamp” by grasping it as close as possible to the skin and pulling it gradually (avoid crushing the tick, burn it or apply various substances)
  • Wash and disinfect the puncture area and hands
  • In case of fever, redness of the skin (ring-shaped) or other new symptoms after a tick bite, seek prompt medical attention

Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.