WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) — Have you heard of the Powassan virus? It's now showing up in our area. You can contract it from a tick bite and it can be deadly.
The rare virus can infect a person within the first 15 minutes of a tick bite and up to 12 hours after.
Powassan is far more dangerous than Lyme disease, leading to swelling in the brain.
It turned deadly for a New Jersey man, and we now know Northern Virginia is dealing with its first patient of the year.
There have been about 75 cases in the United States in the past decade — mostly in the Great Lakes Region and the Northeast.
“What's changing is the presence of the virus in the rodent population and the mammal population so now ticks are being exposed to it,” said Floyd Shockley with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “To my knowledge, no one has proven why it is, as usual, climate change is possible but how much, I can't say.”
Shockley says he is surprised that we haven't had any recorded cases in Maryland or West Virginia yet.
Symptoms of Powassan include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.
Experts recommend using tick repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding brushy, wooded areas and to do regular tick checks after spending time outdoors.
It's important to note Powassan disease is not transmitted from human to human.