SCHOHARIE COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Schoharie County Department of Health (SCDOH) has issued an alert to residents about the presence of the Powassan Virus (POW) in infected ticks in parts of the county. The SCDOH said a tick-sampling location in southern Schoharie County, found that 20% of the groups of ticks tested were positive for the virus that causes Powassan.

Officials said the virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick but is not transmitted directly from person to person. The POW virus is a rare but often serious disease caused by the virus to humans that is transmitted from a tick within 15 minutes after the tick attaches.

Symptoms of the POW virus range from mild flu-like symptoms to life-threatening encephalitis, which is the inflammation of the brain. Officials said because POW is a virus, antibiotics cannot treat the disease.

Approximately 10% of people who have a severe POW infection die from the disease. Of those who survive the severe disease, about 50% have serious long-term health problems.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are typically one to two cases of the POW virus disease reported in New York State per year. Nationally about 75 cases of POW virus disease have been reported over the past 10 years they noted.

SCDOH said only prevention by following precautions to reduce exposure to ticks is the best defense against POW virus disease. Additional information can be found online at SCDOH.