Apr 17, 2015

By Michael Kramer

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The sudden appearance of a rare – and potentially deadly – virus in the U.S. has health experts here in Canada expanding their monitoring of ticks for the disease.

Testing for Powassan virus is being broadened – to include blacklegged ticks.


Human cases of the virus can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

There have been cases reported in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine – and the outbreak has prompted several other states to be on the lookout.

Since 1958, only 16 human cases of the Powassan virus have been reported in Canada – and all of them have been in eastern provinces – including Ontario.

Symptoms of the virus are similiar to those of Lyme disease, but much worse.

They show-up in sufferers much quicker than Lyme disease – because the incurable Powassan virus attacks the central nervous system, often within minutes – causing fever, vomiting, headache, seizures and memory loss.

Health experts recommend using tick repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants – when spending time in bushy or wooded areas.

They also suggest taking a shower when you get home so there’s a chance of washing the ticks off – if they haven’t started to feed.

Ontario’s public health agency advises anyone bitten by any sort of tick to remove it, put it in an airtight bag or pill bottle, note the location and date of the bite and watch for symptoms.

Authorities say if symptoms appear – you should see a health care professional immediately.

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