The 2 cases of the virus were confirmed in Sussex County this week, according to New Jersey Department of Health spokesperson Donna Leusner.
An elderly individual who was confirmed to have the virus this week died last month. The New Jersey Department of Health cannot confirm that Powassan was the cause of death and they do not determine cause of death, Leusner said.
While rare, the Powassan virus is spread by the bite of an infected black legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) or deer tick. Many infected with the Powassan virus do not develop any symptoms but some may experience fever, headache, swelling of the brain (encephalitis), swelling of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, trouble speaking and memory loss, Sussex County Health officials said.
Certain members of the community are at greater risk for developing complications from the Powassan virus if other medical conditions exist. It is important to seek medical attention if symptoms develop. The virus cannot be spread from person to person, Sussex County Health officials said.
“Including these two cases, we’ve had 10 cases reported since 2013. The Department is aware of one other patient with Powassan who died in 2013, from Warren County. We aren’t aware of any other fatalities,” Leusner said.
The best way to prevent POW virus is to protect yourself from tick bites:
- Avoid contact with ticks by avoiding wooded areas with high grass.
- When hiking, stay on the center of the trail.
- Picnic in areas away from wooded and bushy areas.
- Keep children on playground equipment and away from tall grass and shrubs.
- When outdoors, apply insect repellents.
- Permethrin is a tick repellent and can be applied to clothes and gear to keep ticks from attaching.
- DEET is a mosquito repellent and can be applied to the skin to keep mosquitoes from biting.
- Wear clothes that protect against tick bites when outdoors.
- Wear light-colored clothes so it is easy to see and remove ticks.
- Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants.
- Tuck long pants into socks so ticks cannot crawl under pants.
- Do tick checks every couple hours while outdoors and before coming indoors.
- If you see a tick during tick checks, remove it right away.
- Make your yard unattractive to ticks and animals that carry ticks
- Keep grass mowed short.
- Keep children’s toys, playground equipment, pools and lawn furniture at least 15 feet from wooded areas.
- Create a woodchip or mulch border between your yard and wooded areas
- Keep areas under bird feeders and pet dishes clean, so it does not attract animals that may carry ticks.
- Keep trash in closed containers or areas so it does not attract animals that may carry ticks.