Powassan Virus Prevention and Research

Powassan is a genus of viruses from the family Flaviviridae. It has RNA (ribonucleic acid) as its genetic material. The West Nile virus, dengue virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus, and Zika virus, among others, are viruses in the same class as Powassan virus. The Powassan virus was initially discovered in Powassan, Ontario, Canada in 1958. It is not curable.

In North America, there exist two types of Powassan: lineage 1 and lineage 2. Lineage 2 is known also as the deer tick virus, and is carried by deer ticks. It may be possible to predict when the number of cases of the Powassan virus will increase, based on when ticks are active, noticeably during the summer months.

During the last few years, northeastern and upper Mid-West states have seen significant growth in the occurrence rate of tick-borne illness. How a tick-borne disease evolves and transitions geographically may not be a straightforward process. Complications arise with residential construction and development around old or regrown forest and brush. Ticks can potentially re-inhabit these areas.

Routes of Prevention

Over the years, a variety of methods have been used to control ticks, with different success rates. Prevention programs usually incorporate several components, including continuing education on prevention protocols for both the public and medical providers. There is a large focus on the adoption of prevention measures, including checking for ticks on the skin, how to remove them properly, bathing or showering, the application of tick repellents, the use of protective garments, and tumble-drying clothing in high heat after exposure to ticks.

Essentially, the best way to prevent Powassan involves lessening the extent to which one allows oneself to be exposed to ticks. Besides avoiding wooded areas, people should apply to exposed skin repellents that have at least 20% N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET); picaridin, which can be found in…

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