As ticks become more active officials are reminding New Yorkers about a tick found in New York that carries a potentially fatal brain swelling virus.

The tick population is on the rise across New York State, according to Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann who runs Cornell University's Integrated Pest Management program.

"By all accounts,” Gangloff-Kaufmann told the Oswego County News. “It seems like ticks are getting much more dense, much worse and much more visible. Partly due to resurgence in wildlife, including deer.”

Deputy Director of Communicable Disease Control Bryon Backenson says newborn ticks are very active between May and July.

The Powassan virus is spread by the same deer tick that carries Lyme disease. Powassan, which in some cases has been fatal, attacks the nervous system and can cause dangerous brain swelling.

There is currently no treatment for the virus, which according to the CDC kills around 10 percent of people who become sick. Half are left with permanent neurological problems.

Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.

People with severe cases of the virus often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids or medications to reduce swelling in the brain, according to the CDC.

One Hudson Valley resident died from the virus in 2019. An Ulster County resident from Gardiner who had additional underlying health conditions died from the virus in July 2019.

In 2018, the last year on record, there were 21 confirmed cases of Powassan virus in the United States and four confirmed cases in New York. Three people died from the virus across the nation in 2018.

In 2017, there were 33 people diagnosed with the virus in the U.S.  and two people died from the virus.

In 2016,  21 people were diagnosed with the virus across the United States. Three died from the virus. In 2015, there were six cases of the Powassan virus.

In 2018, Hudson Valley Post reported on residents in Dutchess County and Columbia County who were diagnosed with the Powassan virus.

You can reduce your risk of being infected by taking the following precautions:

  • Use of insect repellents containing DEET for skin applications and Permethrin for clothing and shoes.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants
  • Avoiding bushy and wooded areas
  • Thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors.
  • Staying on clear well-traveled paths.
  • Wearing light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Tucking pants into socks.
  • Showering as soon as possible after spending time outdoors.
  • Checking everyone including pets frequently and at the end of each day, and removing all ticks promptly and properly.

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