Severe tick-born virus has experts worried about possible spread

Deer Tick
FILE - This March 2002 file photo shows a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. According to a new government study published Wednesday, July 15, 2015, the geographic areas where Lyme disease is a bigger danger have grown dramatically. U.S. cases remain concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest. But now more areas in those regions are considered high risk. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Experts are warning of a serious disease emerging in the United States that is transmitted by the same tick that carries Lyme disease.

Powassan virus is a far rarer and more deadly pathogen than the bacterium that produces Lyme. The virus causes inflammation in the brain, which leads to death in 10 percent of cases and permanent neurological damage in 50 percent. There is no treatment.

Through 2015, 75 cases of the severe disease have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, a 5-month-old baby from Connecticut was diagnosed with Powassan virus.

The majority of cases are in Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin, according to CDC data.

The disease was first reported in the 1950s, and was not considered a big threat at first because the tick carrying it did not bite humans very often. Now that the deer tick is a carrier, the threat to humans has skyrocketed.

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