This is the season when ticks are back, and so are the many diseases they carry. We all thought ticks can’t be that harmful – until today.
Like just any kid on Cape Cod, Lane had been accustomed growing up with deer ticks. He would have bites then, he even had the Lyme disease. However, they never thought that ticks can be this lethal.
“Kind of just started all one day. Just outside working and got a really bad headache.”
Unaware, Lane hadn’t thought that a tick bite had infected his body with Powassan Virus. It is a deadly tick-related ailment that leads to Encephalitis – severe swelling of the brain.
Dr. Jennifer Lyons, director of Neurological Infections and Inflammatory Diseases at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston stated: “His cognition was very altered, he had difficulties speaking and understanding language.”
Lyons further stated that Lane was in a serious trouble when the ambulance took him to the hospital. She said:
“There are very few medications that we have to treat viruses, in general. And for Powassan virus, specifically, we have no specific antidote.”
The Powassan Virus is very rare. In fact there are only a total of 75 cases reported in the USA over the decade. However, 8 infections were reported in Massachusetts. Usual symptoms include high fever, vomiting, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures, and headaches.
One more serious concern is the short period of time that it takes for a tick to transmit the virus to a human. Powassan infection can occur in approximately 15 minutes, significantly shorter than the 36 to 48 hours it can take for Lyme. Lane is very lucky to be alive.
“I was in a coma for a week,” he said. “I guess I was on life support for a couple of days.”
Lane said he has fully recovered and shows no signs of neurological problems, such as recurring headaches and memory problems, that affected nearly 50% of the survivors.
For a virus with no treatment, the diagnosis can be devastating. Dr. Lyons shared: “The mortality rate of Powassan virus is about 10 to 15%.”
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