Some of my favorite childhood memories take place in the empty lot behind my old house. It was about two acres of land filled with dirt, sagebrush, and tumbleweeds. And as unpleasant and unsanitary as it sounds to me now, it was a dream for my siblings and me. We dug holes, made hideouts, played kick-the-can, and had many other grand adventures that I will always cherish. What I don’t cherish were the ticks. I probably spent just as many hours playing in the field as I did on the bathroom floor while my mom combed through my hair looking for the little critters. There’s no doubt about it, ticks are nasty. The only thing worse than a tick is a tick with a deadly virus.
The Tick Carrying the POW Virus
As it turns out, there is a tick out there with a deadly brain virus. It’s called the Powassan (POW) virus, and it can cause encephalitis (or swelling in the brain). The POW virus can also cause meningitis, inflammation in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. And the worst bit, about 10% of cases are fatal. (1, 2, 3)
The most common tick to spread the virus is the black-legged tick or deer tick. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed with an oval-shaped body and small head. The tick could be all black in color or have an orange strip on the end of their abdomen. And to make matters worse, this is the same tick associated with Lyme disease. (4, 5)
Where Do I Find The Tick Carrying The POW Virus?
The only known cases of the POW virus transmitted by this tick are in Russia, Canada, and the following U.S. States:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island