With warmer weather also comes the potential for insect and tick-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diseases transmitted by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes have tripled in just 13 years.
One virus, Powassan, or POW has seen a resurgence recently, according to Dr. Durland Fish, Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. Symptoms of Powassan infection include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, and seizures.
The CDC reports only about 100 cases of POW in the U.S. in the last 10 years, but speaking on Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live, Fish said there is a good reason why POW could be an issue for the Northeast this summer.
“It's recently become more prevalent because the deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease, is now transmitting this Powassan virus, and we hadn't seen this before, that's a recent event,” he said.
Fish said when it comes to insect and tick-borne viruses, prevention is the key. That’s why he’s frustrated that for decades, national policy aimed at preventing such diseases has focused on a medical response rather than an environmental one.
“These ticks and mosquitoes occur out in the wild, and that's where the research needs to be done to try and be able to manage these insects in an intelligent and environmentally compatible way,” said Fish.
He said the best way to protect yourself from things like Lyme disease is to wear long sleeved shirts and pants, and to apply an EPA registered insect repellent before going outdoors.