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What Is Powassan Virus?

I heard about some new tick-related infection called Powassan virus. What is it and should I be worried about it?
– Sally

Powassan (POW) virus can spread to humans through the bite of an infected tick, as Lyme disease does. It's not actually new (it was discovered in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958), but because it's very rare, many people are just starting to hear about it.

Only 75 cases have been reported in the United States in the last 10 years, mostly in the northeastern and Great Lakes regions.

Although POW infections are very rare, they can be serious and may cause:

There's no cure, and someone with a severe Powassan virus infection might need treatment in a hospital that includes respiratory support, IV fluids, or medicines to ease brain swelling.

As with other more common tickborne illnesses, these outdoor precautions can help protect you and your kids from POW:

Also, be sure you know how to remove a tick, just in case.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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