What deadly disease is on the rise resulting from ticks?

Deadly Tick Disease On The Rise | Powassan virus is spread through an infected tick.  

First of all, this disease is really rare in the United States but there has become an increase in recent years.  The southeast region and Tennessee have no confirmed cases of Powassan virus, but that doesn’t mean you should be cautious.  

The difference between this virus and other diseases ticks carry is that it only takes 15 minutes for the tick to transmit its deadly virus to its human host. Furthermore, other ticks can take over 24 hours to transmit diseases, allowing more time for discovery and elimination of the potential for sickness. Reduce your risk from infection from Powassan virus by avoiding ticks all together.  

In addition, the Powassan virus is related to the West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and Tick-borne encephalitis viruses.  The main tick that carries the disease has the common name of the Groundhog Tick which is found through the eastern half of the United States.


What are the symptoms of Powassan virus?

  • Most people develop no symptoms at all.
  • From the time of a tick bite to symptoms could be a week to up to a month.
  • POW can cause swelling of the brain an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
  • Almost 50% of survivors will ¬†have long term affects including recurring headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems.
  • 10% of Powassan virus cases are deadly to the person.


Frequently Asked Questions About POW Powassan Virus Disease:

  • What is the Powassan virus disease?
    • Powassan virus disease or POW is rare but serious. ¬†This disease can cause swelling of the brain or encephalitis.
  • How do you get POW?
    • POW is only transmitted from infected ticks. ¬†Human to human infection is not known to be a way the disease is transmitted.
  • Is there danger for Powassan virus in Tennessee?
    • While there have been no known cases of POW in Tennessee, Nashville area the danger for it becoming a problem and present is real. ¬†The past 10 years we have seen an increase in the illness spreading down into the southern states from the Northeast.
  • How soon do you get sick after being bitten by an infected tick?
    • The time range is frighteningly long after someone is bitten by an infected tick. ¬†Usually as long as a week to as long as a month later an infected person could show signs of infection.
  • What are the symptoms of the POW virus?
    • There are multiple cases where infected people do not show any symptoms at all. ¬†Encephalitis and meningitis symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and even seizures.
  • How do you tell if you have POW disease?
    • First of all you need to go to your doctor if you have any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms. ¬†You will need blood tests or spinal fluid tests. These tests will be looking for antibodies your immune system creates to fight off the viral infection.
  • How do you get treated for Powassan virus?
    • Unfortunately there is no specific treatment for POW. ¬†Symptom management is the only way to recover including hospitalization, respiratory support and intravenous fluids.


How do you reduce your chances of contracting Powassan virus?

  • Homeowners are strongly encouraged to treat their yard for ticks on a regular basis with our U.S. Pest tick program.
  • It is important to have your vet treat any animals that are living with you or in your yard area.
  • When venturing out into hiking or playing outdoors away from your home is to apply tick repellent that contains DEET to your shoes and clothes. ¬†
  • If you find a tick on you remove it immediately with a pair of tweezers and wash the area with soap and water.


A comprehensive list of what you may find when it comes to ticks


Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)


Where found- Widely distributed across the eastern United States.

Transmits РLyme Disease, B. miyamotoi disease (relapsing fever), Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and even Powassan virus Comments РThe greats threat for being bitten is during the spring, summer and fall months in Tennessee.  However, adult

ticks will be out searching for a host even in winter if the temperature is above freezing.  All stages bite humans but

females and nymphs are the most common found on people



Photo Courtesy of SciencePress


Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)


Where found- Very common across the state of Tennessee

Transmits – Human Ehrlichiosis, Heartland Virus, Southern tick associated rash illness

Comments – This tick is extremely aggressive and the threat is prevalent all year long in Tennessee.

The adult females have the white dot or ‚Äėlone star‚Äô on her back. ¬†Like other ticks, the females and

Nymphs bite females. Allergic reactions to meat have been attirbuted to the bite of a lone star tick.



American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)


Where found – Rocky Mountains and also occurs in areas around the Pacific Coast.

Transmits – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia

Comments – Spring and Summer is the most common time to get bit and primarily females are the likely

ones to bite humans.



Photo Courtesy of SciencePress


Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)


Where Found – Worldwide

Transmits – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Comments – Dogs are the primary host for the brown dog tick in each of its life stages but the tick has

a reputation for biting humans and other mammals.



Groundhog Tick (Ixodes cookei)


Where Found – Throughout the eastern half of the United States.

Transmits-  Powassan virus (Powassan virus disease).

Comments Р Also called woodchuck ticks. All life stages feed on a variety of warm-blooded animals,

including groundhogs, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, weasels, and occasionally people and

domestic animals. Photo courtesy of Steve Jacobs, PSU Entomology



Gulf Coast Tick (Amblyomma maculatum)


Where Found Р Southeastern and mid-Atlantic states and southern Arizona and a few areas in


Transmits Р R. parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever.

Comments – Larvae and nymphs feed on birds and small rodents, while adult ticks feed on deer and

other wildlife. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans.



Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni)


Where Found Р Rocky Mountain states.

Not in Tennessee area.

Transmits Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Colorado tick fever virus (Colorado tick

fever), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia).

Comments Adult ticks feed primarily on large mammals. Larvae and nymphs feed on small rodents.



Soft Tick Ornithodoros spp.


Where Found – Throughout the western half of the United States, including Texas.

Transmits – Borrelia hermsii, B. turicatae (tick-borne relapsing fever [TBRF]).

Comments Р Humans typically come into contact with soft ticks in rustic cabins. The ticks emerge atnight and feed briefly while people are sleeping. This tick mimic bedbug behavior when searching for a



Photo Courtesy of SciencePress


Ticks That Commonly Bite Humans

  • Black Legged Tick
  • Asian Longhorned tick

Finally, the most recent tick development in Tennessee area has been the emergence of the Asian Longhorned tick found on a dog around Knoxville TN area. These ticks were also found on a cow in Crossville, TN. Nashville will soon see the emergence of several different types of ticks. Civilians must be prepared to protect & treat theirselves from any illnesses that these new tick species can transmit.

As a result, the Asian Long-Horned Tick has now been found in 11 states.  The tick was first seen in 2017 in the United States for the first time. In other countries, these ticks have been known to make people really sick if bitten. As of May 28, 2019, long-horned ticks have been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Thousands of ticks may be found at one time because the females do not need to mate in order to produce eggs



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