2013-10-31 / Front Page

1 in 3 cases statewide of Powassan Virus is in Putnam

Eric Gross

Putnam County has the dubious distinction of leading New York State in relation to confirmed cases of Powassan Virus (POW).

The virus, a tick-borne illness, transmitted through the bite of a  black legged deer tick, is transmitted in as little as 15 minutes. In contrast, Lyme infections, also resulting from the bite of a deer tick require the insect to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours.

Since POW is a virus, antibiotics are not effective as they are with bacterial Lyme Disease.

Putnam Commissioner of Health Dr. Allen Beals explained that symptoms of POW include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures as well as memory loss: “Long term neurological problems may also occur with severe cases necessitating hospitalization for respiratory support, intravenous fluids and medications to reduce the swelling in the brain,” he said Friday.

While POW virus is significantly less common than the Lyme bacteria, since 2001, New York State has reported 16 known cases of POW with five of these in Putnam County.

A recent study conducted by the NYS Health Department in conjunction with the Carey Institute in Millbrook found that Putnam had the highest rate of POW virus infection in the entire Hudson Valley.

“Our residents must prevent tick bites which is the first defense in preventing all tick-borne infections,” said Dr. Beals, who added: “When heading out into the woods, apply a repellant containing DEET. This measure has been highly effective in preventing bites.”

Dr. Beals has suggested anyone venturing into a wooded area—be they hunters, campers, hikers, gardeners or outdoor workers—to wear light colored clothing and check for ticks regularly: “Pay particular attention to the back of knees, behind the ears, the scalp, armpits and back. If an attached tick is found remove it immediately by using a fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the mouth parts and not the body. Wash the area thoroughly and apply antiseptic.”

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