[fear mongering post for the year. I really hate ticks, and I cant believe no one has told me about this virus before]

I love making exclamations like that.

First time I had Indian food: WHY ARE WE NOT EATING THIS ALL THE TIME??

When I learned hand-to-hand combat: WHY ARE WE NOT TEACHING THIS TO EVERY FEMALE??

When I learned about Powassan virus (like, yesterday): WHY HAVENT I LEARNED ABOUT THIS BEFORE??

Powassan virus is rare, but TERRIFYING, and its becoming less rare.


Heres the deal– you all have heard of flaviviruses before. West Nile, Dengue, Yellow Fever, etc. All these guys are spread by mosquitoes.

Apparently there is another flavivirus that is spread, by regular ol ticks, in Canada/US: Powassan virus.


Get this– If you are bitten by a tick with Powassan virus, it only takes ~15 minutes to transmit the virus. There are no/rarely any acute signs of illness. So up to three weeks later, allovasudden, you get hella sick. And you have no friggen idea why, because you were bitten by the tick weeks ago, and you probably totally forgot about it. And what is hella sick, exactly? Encephalitis. 10-15% of people die from it. ~50%, even if they survive, have permanent neurological problems. There is no vaccine. There is no treatment. You just either die, and even if you live, the odds are pretty good that you will have life-long problems.


Well it used to be that Powassan virus was restricted to like, Eastern Canada. Now cases are popping up in Minnesota… and Michigan… and Wisconsin

“WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS???” some of you all might be screaming. “WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID POWASSAN???”

Basically, youre supposed to wear ‘OFF!’, tuck your jeans in your socks, and neurotically look for ticks all over your body after you have been outdoors.


WTF!! Thats not comforting, Departments of Health!



[/fear mongering post for the year]


  1. #1 AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
    June 30, 2011


  2. #2 Surgoshan
    June 30, 2011

    Burn down Canada!

    And, apparently, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

  3. #3 Joe Ballenger
    June 30, 2011

    ERV…are you familiar with Eastern Equine Encephalitis?

  4. #4 rnb
    June 30, 2011

    Is this what happened to Republicans in Wisconsin?

  5. #5 Prometheus
    June 30, 2011

    When I looked up relative risk factors for Powassan virus the internet decided to give me a lot of pictures of a thing called a “tube-nosed fruit bat”.

    No way am I sleeping tonight.

  6. #6 Alex Besogonov
    June 30, 2011


    You should come to Udmurtia (that’s in Russia). We have more than 1000 cases of tick-borne encephalitis each _year_ ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick-borne_encephalitis ) in a population of 2 millions, which is also caused by a flavivirus. A wonderful disease, btw, incurable and with possible permanent damage.

    I was kinda shocked when I moved to another country because people here do not treat each forest trip as if it were a walk in biohazard level IV lab.

  7. #7 Blind Squirrel
    June 30, 2011

    Permethrin! A harmless derivative of pyrethrin. It bonds to cotton supposedly through 20+ washings. It’s the stuff the troops in the Mideast soak their jackets in to protect against sand flies. Ticks spend a lot of time wandering about on the host’s body before biting. Buy it cheaply as a kennel spray;it’s expensive when purchased as Dow tick “repellent”.

  8. #8 khops
    June 30, 2011

    yeah my lab works on mosquito transmitted arboviruses (west nile, all those nice encephalitis causing alphaviruses, rift valley, lacrosse). it has basically made me incapable of handling any kind of mosquito attack without getting frantic, slapping at myself and screaming NOOO THEY’RE DISEASED AHHHHHHHH HELP MEEEE and running back into my apartment. this summer has already been especially taxing on my sanity and it’s barley started. sigh.

    growing up in an area heavily infested with lyme’s (and getting it repeatedly as a child) all I can say about tick avoidance is to do what you said but also get someone to check you all over after traipsing through the woods. my mom used to check our heads when we were little and came back from the woods too so it’s also a good idea to make sure you put OFF in your hair, if deer ticks get in your hair you’re almost never gonna find it.

  9. #9 Mary
    June 30, 2011

    never heard of it, thanks for the info..as I sit here and admire my bullseye rash..crap.. another 2 weeks of antibiotics. Also..tick tubes for weedy areas..empty toilet paper roll..stuff with cotton that has been sprayed with a deet preperation or pyrethrin..throw into tick prone areas…vermin gather cotton for nests..cuts back on the tick population…

    We hold an annual town wide event of loading up our cars with tick tubes, then we just chuck them out the windows as we drive along

  10. #10 charles
    June 30, 2011

    There’s a better chance of the POTUS going bonkers and starting a thermonuclear war that immolates the world than your catching this virus.

  11. #11 ERV
    June 30, 2011

    I still like Surgoshans idea.

    Its the only way to be sure.

  12. #12 Blind Squirrel
    June 30, 2011

    its the only way to be sure.

    From orbit, Right?

    stuff with cotton that has been sprayed with a deet preperation (sic)or pyrethrin.

    Um, deet is a repellent, Permitherin is an insecticide. Not the same at all. I can’t imagine any purpose in soaking cotton in a repellent and placing it in tubes.


  13. #13 D. C. Sessions
    June 30, 2011

    As I look around at the desert, I am filled with peace.

  14. #14 CJ
    June 30, 2011

    Dammit. I get bitten by ticks on a weekly basis at work.


  15. #15 Mary
    June 30, 2011

    perhaps some permethrin then…google Damminix (I am not recommending the product or pimping for it) just an example of a tick tube… We make our own, less cost involved..

  16. #16 The AnaIyst
    June 30, 2011

    Ticks can ruin your life and lead to all sorts of disease.

    How about RMSF, TBRF, LBRF, Lyme, Babesiosis, Ehrlichlia, Anaplasmosis, 364D Rickettsiosis, bartonellosis, and so many more.

    And I admit it may have not been Lyme since I was in a TBRF and LBRF region. It’s too bad they don’t directly test for those. I always wondered about the cross-reactivity since my symptoms were more consistent with LBRF.

    Lucky for me, I developed IgG antibodies to RMSF fast unlike some. Bartonella, that one went chronic and scarred me up bad on the sides of my body. I call them battle scars because it looks like someone slashed me with a sword.

    I was in the ER all the time. They would “stabilize” me send me home, and I was back! I have PTSD from all of this.

    Now I have CFS (so I am told) as tests indicate it. However, they all overlap adding a bunch of confusion.

    And funny coincidence you speak of ticks. I just pulled one of my neck tonight (and I didn’t even go outside!). Must have been from my dog. Pulled another off about 2 weeks ago.

    I don’t even like in an area considered a tick zone, but it’s like the perfect niche here. With the increase in deer in this area, I have noticed an increase in ticks.

    I am not sure why they bite me each year multiple times a year and nobody else seem to get them (besides the dog occasionally). Perhaps I just notice more since I am paranoid.

    My uncle (on Long Island) took his dog for a walk. His dog was covered in 60 ticks, and he had a few himself.

    You have every right to be afraid of ticks. One bite, and you could be close to death from multiple infections.

    Unfortunately, they only seem to be increasing, so perhaps you can engineer a virus to give to mice that can kill off the tick population.

    What ticks me off is that all the research seems to go to Lyme when there are so many more diseases that can chronic and not tested for. If Lyme is really not a threat (or so they say), why the heck is it getting all the funding?

  17. #17 Tobias
    July 1, 2011

    I don’t see much difference between this and the normal TBE. Neither from your description nor from the wiki articele.
    Is there no vaccine or something really scary like this?

    mmm. maybe I should check if my vaccination is still current.

  18. #18 Mac
    July 2, 2011

    UpToDate has an informative little blurb on it. Of note: “However, serologic surveys [of Powassan virus IgM] have found an antibody prevalence of 1 to 4 percent, indicating that asymptomatic infection is common.”

    Ok, small phew

  19. #19 Samantha Vimes
    July 2, 2011

    Yes, Tobias, if you read the post, there is a sentence in there that reads, “There is no vaccine.”

  20. #20 MikeJ
    July 2, 2011

    I don’t know if it’s the same virus, but here in Poland we also have this “get bitten, you may very well die” viral meningitis . You rarely hear about it in the suburbia now, but about 20 years ago, when things were much more rural around towns, pretty much everybody knew of someone who got screwed over by a stupid tick. As a kid I was taught to avoid tall grass when wearing shorts and to check myself for ticks after playing outside.
    In my neighborhood one girl died aged seven I think, and in my class in grade school we had Daria, who was a survivor with mild cognitive impairment.

  21. #21 Mary
    July 2, 2011

    When I heard the warning about Powassen virus becoming more common, I thought about the Central European Tick-Borne Encephalitis. My whole family was immunized against this more than 20 years ago when we spent some time in Austria. (A cousin of my husband caught it years ago and has been institutionalized ever since.) It seems that it isn’t that hard to develop a vaccine against these things — it’s just hard to get a US company to develop, test, and market a vaccine for a rare disease. Of course, I hope that the vaccine we got in Europe would be protective, but as far as I can tell from reading about it last week, nobody has checked, and the Powassen virus is probably distinct enough from the European Tick-Borne Encephalitis viruses that it would be necessary to develop a separate vaccine.

    This could be done. It would also be possible to make a vaccine against West Nile virus and the Equine Encephalitis viruses. I would certainly get all of those vaccines if they became available. For now, though, I amaze my friends by beating ticks to death with any convenient heavy object, by tucking my pants unfashionably into my socks, and by obsessively staying out of the high grasses.

  22. #22 Reynold
    July 3, 2011


    That is all.

  23. #23 Alex Besogonov
    July 4, 2011


    Encephalitis vaccine needs booster shots about every 3 years, so don’t count on it.

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