Department of Health finds NJ woman died from rare tick-borne disease

Tick control must be practiced during every season

Many understand that tick control is a necessity due to the potential diseases the pests can inflict on their hosts. What may not be as widely understood is exactly how large the range of tick-borne illnesses actually is. Ticks don't just carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever – and sometimes the most obscure diseases can be the deadliest.

New Jersey's Department of Health concluded that a New Jersey woman was infected with a rare tick-borne disease, the Powassan virus, when she died at 51 years old. The woman had developed symptoms that included a fever, headache, rash and inflammation of the brain, reported New Jersey newspaper The Star-Ledger. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 cases of the Powassan virus were reported in the last 10 years. Most cases have been found in the Great Lakes region and the Northeast. There isn't a specific treatment for the virus, but people with severe symptoms often need to be hospitalized to receive proper care. Powassan virus is fatal in 10 percent of cases, unlike Lyme disease, which rarely results in death. 

The disease is found in two types of ticks: the deer tick and woodchuck tick. 

The state decided not to make any announcement of the discovered case initially because tick season was over, noted The Star-Ledger. 

"To say it's no longer tick season, it's just irresponsible," said Tom Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island's Center for Vector-Borne Disease. "There's hardly a month where you couldn't encounter a tick."

Practice prevention properly
Since there's no cure for the Powassan virus, the only way to prevent the illness is by practicing proper tick control techniques. When walking outside, avoid overgrown areas and stick to the middle of any trails. Wearing long sleeves and pants also make it less likely that a tick finds its way onto your skin. 

Remember to check your pet for ticks often, too. Your pet is just as likely to fall victim to a tick. Check his or her fur after your dog or cat explores an area you suspect could be infested with the pests.

There are also products designed to repel and kill ticks. For example, the Hartz® UltraGuard Plus® Flea & Tick Collar for Cats and Kittens kills and repels ticks for up to seven months. 

This content is provided by the pet wellness experts at Hartz. We offer complete flea and tick protection for your pet, home and yard.