Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise, or at least better reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease leads the pack, with some 35,000 cases reported annually but in the Northeast, the black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) also infect people with other maladies, among them anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and now Powassan encephalitis, according to a new paper in Parasites and Vectors.
Powassan encephalitis is caused by Powassan virus and its variant, deer tick virus. The virus is spread to people by infected ticks, and can cause central nervous system disruption, encephalitis, and meningitis. There is a 10-15% fatality rate in reported cases, with many survivors suffering long-term neurological damage.