Powassan Virus

 
 
Paper Trained
by
Scott Sandeman, D.V.M
Powassan virus disease (POW) has recently been in the news as a serious threat to people.  This uncommon tick borne viral disease may not cause any symptoms in many people while a few may develop life-threatening symptoms related to encephalitis, severe headaches and evidence of neurological disease.  While rare, death is possible.  Fortunately, our pets haven’t been identified as major sufferers of this disease.  This is important as many pets, especially dogs, would likely have contact with the most common tick to transmit the disease –the deer tick.
As we know, deer ticks also carry and transmit Lyme bacteria, a much more common demon in the woods of the Midwest and East coast.  While both diseases can cause significant disease, a Lyme infection is the result of a bacterial infection.  Diagnosed early in the course of the disease and treated with the appropriate antibiotic, this illness carries a fairly good prognosis or outcome.  Viral diseases like POW don’t respond to antibiotics -supportive care is the primary treatment-avoidance the best preventative.
So if our pets are at a very low risk of developing POW, why should we worry?  As most of us know, our pets are becoming a more integral part of our lives –sharing our homes, our vehicles and our beds.  While this closeness  has its benefits for all involved, it increases the odds that a pet may bring in a carrier –a tick or parasite –that could jump from pet to people and children would be most at risk.
Now is good time to discuss tick prevention with your veterinarian even if POW isn’t a major threat in your area.  Lyme disease is endemic and other diseases can be spread by ticks- a list that will increase with global warming.  Chewable tablets, topical therapies and even collars can be employed to minimize these arthropods from attaching to our pets.  Avoiding areas like mowed trails and areas overgrown with bushes and grasses can help as well as doing a thorough tick-check on pets and people after experiencing these areas should be accomplished.  
For more information about POW in people, check with your physician or pediatrician. and ask your veterinarian about tick prevention for your pets.

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