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January 21, 2014

Ticks are a serious problem

Lyme disease is a malady that none of us want to get. I know some people that now have Lyme disease, and I feel very sorry for what they have to go through. This tick bite disease has increased to the point where up to 300,000 cases are being reported each year.

Watch out for the ticks

For some time it was believed the number of new cases were not being adequately reported or the disease was even being mistaken for some other illness. The jump from 30,000 new cases a year to 300,000 cases is so large that the missed diagnosed theory seems more likely than the huge jump in new cases. Well now we have two new tick bite diseases to worry about.

The first is Powassan that made the news in August 2013 when a young person in the Hudson River Valley of New York died from the tick-borne Powassan virus. The cause of death was encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

Field reports from the Hudson River Valley have found that up to six percent of the ticks in this region now carry the Powassan virus. Add this to the ticks that have Lyme and we have a major event that may just be right around the corner.

While Lyme disease is bad, Powassan may be even worse. This new disease has a mortality rate of at least 10 percent, and a permanently disabled rate of up to 50 percent. In addition, Powassan disease can be transmitted from the tick to a human in as little as 15 minutes.

The one good news so far is the disease seems to be rare, but will it spread and become more common? Only time will tell.

Feel bad now, just wait, I have more bad news for you. Another new tick-borne disease that does not even have a name yet reached the United States. First reported from Russia in 2010, it has been found in our hard bodied ticks. The bacteria that causes this new disease is called Borrelia miyamotoi, and it enters the bloodstream from the bite of a tick. It has symptoms much like Lyme disease, but has a relapsing fever, not the bullseye rash so characteristic of Lyme disease.

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