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Bad year for ticks; Lyme disease remains top concern for Tompkins County

The Powassan virus, a serious but rare disease, has caught headlines in recent months as cases have popped up and sometimes been fatal in the Northeast. It can cause fever, headache, vomiting, weakness and memory loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe cases of Powassan often need to be hospitalized.

Three cases of Powassan have been reported in New York, but it has not been found in any ticks or people in Tompkins County.

“We have never detected Powassan in a tick collected in Tompkins County,” Goodman said. “That said, we haven’t been testing for it very long. From close to 200 ticks that we’ve tested over the past 12 months from Tompkins, we did not have any Powassan positives.”

Goodman said more awareness and recent research might have contributed to more public attention to Powassan.

“I think there’s more awareness now that we have better technology to test for emerging infections,” Goodman said. “There was a publication that came out earlier this year based on ticks that were tested the previous year, 2015 to 2016, and they looked at Suffolk County and parts of Connecticut and they did find several Powassan positive ticks. There was a lot of press attention after that and of course there have been a few human cases. We have no evidence that Powassan virus can cause illness in companion animals, livestock or wildlife. However, we are screening for it in clinical samples because we just don’t know very much about the virus in animals.”

In general, cases of Powassan are rare. Between 2006 and 2015, there were between one and 12 cases per year in the U.S., according to the CDC.

There have been no positive cases of Powassan in Tompkins County, according to the Tompkins County Health Department. However, physicians are being advised to order a…

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