Tick-borne Powassan virus confirmed in 6 Minnesota counties

A tick-borne disease that is more serious than Lyme disease is on the rise. It’s called the Powassan virus, and there are already 20 confirmed cases in Minnesota. Ticks in 6 counties have tested positive, some of them very close to the Twin Cities metro.

The virus was confirmed in Anoka, Cass, Clearwater, Houston, Morrison and Pine counties.

First documented in 1958, the virus is named after the Canadian town where it first appeared. Symptoms include headache, vomiting, weakness, and in many cases, swelling of the brain. Government statistics show that half of those infected will suffer permanent neurological damage.

Since 2008, there have been 22 reported cases in Minnesota, but researchers warn that the number could grow. A Yale report published in 2015 sighted ecological changes that "have resulted in the pathogen spreading to the common deer tick."

Unlike Lyme disease, which is treatable and preventable, if an affected tick is quickly removed, the Powassan virus has no known treatment and can be transmitted from a tick to human in only minutes.