Two new cases of a dangerous and potentially deadly tick-borne illness have health officials in Maine, is on high alert as agencies throughout the country brace for an especially high-population tick season. The patients, who were not identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contracted Powassan virus, which differs from Lyme disease can be transferred from the cross to the man in a matter of minutes.
“It is a virus, while Lyme is a bacterium,” Dr. Kent Holtorf, a Lyme disease expert and medical director of Holtorf Medical Group, told Fox News. “If you catch early Lyme disease, antibiotics can eradicate, but with a virus, you have a lot less options to do something.”
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Holtorf added that the symptoms of Powassan are more serious than Lyme, and can quickly reach a patient’s brain, making them susceptible to the long-term neurological damage. The patients in Maine began with the presentation of symptoms at the end of April and were included in the hospital with encephalitis. They have since been discharged and continues to recover. Not all patients have symptoms and will not be affected by the infection, but people can suffer from fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss. In 10-15 percent of cases, the virus proves fatal.
Holtorf said that people who are most likely to be symptomatic, those who are immunosuppressed or those who have previously contracted tick-borne diseases such as West Nile, Dengue and Lyme disease.
“In terms of the risk of you getting it is very low,” Holtorf said, referring to an average of seven cases reported annually by the CDC. “But there are people who are going to get it, and although most of them are not the symptoms, there are people that go for serious damage to the brain — so it is about, that you would on a day, and a few weeks later, you’re on a respirator and never the same.”
According to the CDC, the two most recent cases bring Maine a total of nine since 2000. Holtorf said the total recent spike in tick-borne diseases has probably to do with the warmer temperatures during the two previous winters, and that the plagues are the development of mutant versions of a number of diseases.
“These things are changing, and it is becoming a scary world out there,” he said.
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While the officials in the state are calling for hikers and others who choose to go outside, to be vigilant, the politicians and the health authorities in other states have similar resources. In New York City, where more than 8,000 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease over the past 15 years, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), a plea for more resources from the federal government to fight against the disease.
Holtorf cited CDC recommendations to use tick repellent with DEET, and advised people who enjoy the great outdoors, wear long pants, tuck jeans in pants or socks, and conduct frequent tick checks.
“With Lyme, if you go back, take a shower and check yourself for ticks, because you have the time,” he said. “The problem with this is that you don’t have much time.”