Friday, March 18, 2022

Another Damn Virus to Worry About

Or two. First ‘Rare but dangerous’ tickborne virus spreading around Pa.: What you can do

Another illness transmitted by ticks is spreading around Pennsylvania, state officials announced. It’s called Deer Tick Virus and is a type of Powassan virus. DTV is considered “rare but dangerous,” officials said in a news release Tuesday that indicated the illness had been found in 15 Pennsylvania counties. By week’s end, that count was up to 16, including one contiguous to the Lehigh Valley.

As with Lyme disease, another tickborne illness, there is no vaccine to prevent the transmission of DTV in humans. Nor is there a medicine to treat it. (Lyme disease can be treated early through antibiotics.) That leaves caution and prevention as the best steps to avoid falling victim.  “Lyme disease has been present in all 67 counties for some time, and unfortunately, the prevalence of the very serious Deer Tick Virus appears to be increasing in some tick populations,” Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the release.

Powassan virus can be transmitted from tick to human in as little as 15 minutes after a bite occurs, while Lyme takes much longer to cause infection — often 24 hours or more after the tick attaches to the host. 

Initial symptoms of a DTV infection may include fever, headache, vomiting and weakness. Some people who are infected experience no symptoms, and an infection may go undetected. However, 91% of patients treated for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease, meaning it’s capable of infecting the nervous system.

Those who exhibit severe disease from Deer Tick Virus may experience encephalitis or meningitis and require hospitalization, with symptoms including confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, or seizures. About 12% of people with severe disease have died, and approximately half of survivors of severe disease have suffered long-term health impacts.

Through routine testing in the Pennsylvania DEP’s five-year pilot tick surveillance program started in 2018, “unusually high infection rates” of Deer Tick Virus have been found in adult tick samples taken from three sites: Fisherman’s Paradise public fishing area on Spring Creek in Centre County; Iroquois Trail near Tunkhannock in Wyoming County; and Lawrence Township Recreational Park in Clearfield County. At each of these three locations, the infection rate exceeded 80% of ticks sampled.

I can't imagine what would keep it from getting to Maryland. Deer don't move too far in their lifetime, but some wander, and a few ticks are going to ride across borders. 

Also,  First Case Of Avian Influenza Detected On Kent County, Delaware farm

Federal laboratory testing has confirmed a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI) case in a commercial broiler farm in Kent County, Delaware. Following an investigation by the Delaware Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed poultry from this farm tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI).

This avian influenza detection follows previously announced cases on farms in New Castle County, Delaware, and Cecil and Queen Anne’s Counties, Maryland. Following these cases, federal and state partners have greatly expanded their surveillance sampling and testing regimen to better protect the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula.

State officials have quarantined all affected premises, and the birds have been depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from affected flocks will not enter the food system.

There is currently minimal risk to public health as there have been no human cases of HPAI in the United States. Avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which remain safe to eat.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious airborne respiratory virus that spreads quickly among birds through nasal and eye secretions and manure. The virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment, and on the clothing and shoes of caretakers. This virus affects poultry, like chickens, ducks, turkeys, and wild bird species such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, and raptors.

So, if the birds in your neighborhood start dropping dead at abnormal rates, this may be the cause. It would be worth reporting to authorities. 

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