Even though the Powassan virus is considered rare, the number of cases has been increasing. The Powassan virus is a form of flavirus which is the same as the virus that causes encephalitis.
The Powassan virus is harbored by the Ixodes genus of ticks. These ticks are present in various animals including chipmunks, red squirrels, skunks, groundhogs, voles, white-footed mice and white-tailed deer.
What are the indications?
Generally, the individual could not recall if he/she was bitten by the tick. Most who are bitten do not develop any symptoms. Among those who develop symptoms, it might take between 1-5 weeks for the infection to manifest. It is important to note that it requires 15 minutes for the tick to attach and transmit the Powassan virus.
Primarily, those who become symptomatic develop a flu-like condition with fever that can be accompanied by drowsiness, headache, digestive issues, rashes and disorientation. Within several days of these symptoms, encephalitis arises. In some cases, the spinal cord might end up inflamed which leads to myelitis and meningitis.
Once the brain and spinal cord are inflamed, these signs might manifest:
- Visual and speech issues
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Difficulty breathing
Management of Powassan virus infection
Remember that there is no available cure for the Powassan virus. The symptoms that might arise are managed with supportive care which includes intravenous fluids, artificial ventilation and drugs to lessen the brain swelling.
The use of steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin were both effective in the treatment of the infection.