The Columbia County Department of Health confirmed on Tuesday that one resident has contracted powassan – a rare and sometimes deadly tick borne illness.
They say the patient is recovering well, but it could’ve been a lot worse. Dr. Amesh Adalja, Infectious Disease Physician at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says that while people with Powassan often manifest no symptoms at all, the disease can be deadly if it gets into the brain.
Dr. Adalja also warns that the disease is spread by the same tick that carries Lyme disease, but Powassan can be even sneakier.
“Lyme takes about 36 hours for that bacteria to transmit, Powassan can be transmitted very, very quickly with just one, transient bite. So that makes it all the more important that you really try and avoid tick areas,” Dr. Adalja says.
After hearing about the confirmed case in Washington County, some capital region mothers say they’re concerned about taking their children near wooded areas.
“It’s creepy. It makes me feel like I don’t want to bring her outside anymore,” Shierra Tolliver says.
“You have to watch little kids especially because they love running through everything,” Nina Carr adds.
And though severe cases of Powassan are rare, the doctor says to keep in mind that the capital region is a high tick area, and reported cases of the disease are only on the rise, so it’s important to protect yourself.
“Practice meticulous self-care. So do body inspections to make sure there’s no ticks attached to you after you’ve come out [of a wooded area], wear clothing that’s appropriate.
So try to tuck your pants into your socks, wear long sleeve shirts if you can, use the appropriate repellents. But really body inspections are one of the key things you should do,” Dr. Adalja says.
And remember that you can never be too careful.
“I’m definitely ready to be more cautious about it. I don’t even want to risk that. It’s bad enough getting lyme disease,” Danielle Palumbo says.