Overview of Powassan Virus
Dr. Jorge Parada – National Pest Management Association
Powassan (POW) virus is a Flavivirus related to West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and other Tick-borne encephalitis viruses. The virus is named after Powassan, Ontario, where the first recognized case of disease was discovered in 1958.
Humans become infected with Powassan virus from the bite of an infected tick. Fortunately, Powassan virus is only rarely transmitted to humans. Typically infection is transmitted in a cycle to and from ticks and small mammals such as woodchucks, skunks, squirrels and white footed mice.
Symptoms of Powassan Virus
Powassan virus is most common in eastern Canada and the north central United States (fig 1). Approximately 60 human cases of the most severe form of infection, neuroinvasive Powassan virus disease, were reported in the United States over the past 10 years, where most cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region (Fig 1). However, these numbers may be misleading. Serologic surveys have found an antibody prevalence of 1 to 4 percent, indicating that asymptomatic infection is common.
Figure 1. Geographic distribution of neuroinvasive Powassan virus infection in the USA. From 2004 through 2013, POWV neuroinvasive disease cases have been reported in Maine (2), Michigan (1), Minnesota (19), New York (13), Pennsylvania (1), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (10). Source: ArboNET, Arboviral Diseases Branch Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfortunately, it appears that Powassan virus is either becoming more common, or it is more commonly being diagnosed (Fig 2).
Figure 2. Neuroinvasive Powassan virus infections in the USA by year, 2004-2013. Source: ArboNET, Arboviral Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like most tick-borne diseases, infection mostly occurs during the warm summer moths from June to September.
Powassan encephalitis generally shows first symptoms after 1-3 weeks. Typically, people do not recall the tick bite. The tick is small and easy to miss and, unlike Lyme disease where the tick needs to feed for 24-48 hours before transmitting infection, Powassan virus may be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes of attachment.
Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, generalized weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. The Powassan virus infects the central nervous system and can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). This manifests itself as a painful or stiff neck, altered mental status, confusion, seizures, aphasia (inability to speak), tingling and numbness, movement disorders, or cranial nerve palsies (paralysis of the muscles of the face and eyes). Unfortunately, 10-15% of Powassan virus encephalitis cases are fatal and long-term neurologic problems are common. In persons with full-blown Powassan infection, approximately half of survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, paralysis, muscle wasting and memory problems.
Treatment and Prevention of Powassan Virus
There is no specific treatment, but people with severe Powassan virus illnesses often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.
Because there is no vaccine or specific therapy for Powassan encephalitis, the best way to combat POW infection is prevention. Of course, the best means of prevention is protection from tick bite. This includes avoiding walking through tall grass and vegetation, wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants tucked into socks or boots, as well as clearing brushy areas from around your home. Insect repellants are effective against ticks and are recommended. The best chemical protection against ticks consists of permethrin-treated clothing and gear, combined with DEET applied to exposed skin. It is also important to remove ticks before they attach or as soon after attachment as possible.
Remember to check family pets for ticks to help prevent ticks from entering the home. Environmental controls to reduce human contact with small and medium-sized mammals should reduce risk for exposure to Powassan virus-infected ticks. Persons should keep areas adjacent to their home clear of brush, weeds, trash, and other elements that could support small and medium-sized mammals. When removing rodent nests, avoid direct contact with nesting materials and use sealed plastic bags for disposal and to prevent direct contact with ticks. To further limit your risk, consider contacting a pest control professional to address removing rodent and other mammals from your property.
Don’t Try This at Home: New York Man Burned Trying to Kill Bed Bugs
Bedbugs can be one of the trickiest types of pests to terminate and calling in a professional exterminator to do the job is key.
A man in Eastport, NY learned this the hard way when trying to kill bed bugs inside of a rental car.
According to ABC News, Scott Kemery soaked the interior of the car with alcohol after someone told him this would kill the bedbugs.
After pouring the alcohol he sat inside the car and lit a cigarette, which started the blaze.
Kemery fled, abandoning the flame-engulfed car, the heat from which also damaged several other cars parked nearby.
It’s been reported Kemery suffered burns from the event.
Do not try this at home! Calling an expert is always the best option for pest control needs.
A study recently published in the journal, Ecology Letters shows that Spartans, the legendary Greek warriors, may have a lot in common with fern-dwelling ant colonies in the Malaysian rainforests.
When an invading colony was introduced into a fern, competition-driven war often ensued. The study found that these wars were similar to what we might think the Spartans or other warrior cultures may have done in war. According to the authors, “Ants were sometimes being thrown from the edge of the fern.”
War between ant colonies is actually pretty common, as they compete for resources. One species in northwest Madagascar, Malagidris sofina, is known to physically grab hold of prospective invaders and leap off the edge of their cliff-side homes. They can fall as far as 10 feet, which is quite a distance for insects fractions of an inch in length.
The authors of the study were fascinated by the way these ants ejected invaders and who they allowed to stay. Epiphytic birds’ nest ferns (Asplenium spp.) are large and wide plants that trap leaf litter from tropical canopies. Over time, this creates multiple layers of prospective ant homes for insects and even frogs. The researchers were intrigued by the revelation that these ferns could often support up to 12 completely separate ant communities which (for the most part) do not actively try to evict one another.
Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen individuals living in small natural areas s to highly organized colonies that occupy large territories and number in the millions. Larger colonies consist mostly of sterile, wingless females forming castes of “workers”, “soldiers”, or other specialized groups. Nearly all ant colonies have fertile males called “drones” and one or more fertile females called “queens.” The colonies are described as super organisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.
NPMA’s Bug Barometer is the result of research conducted by our expert entomologists, who analyzed winter weather reports and patterns from across the country to determine the pest pressure index each region will experience this spring,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “The events of this past winter lay the foundation for what’s to come, but the final outcome depends on how the recent weather combines with temperatures and precipitation patterns in the upcoming weeks. Understanding what to expect in various parts of the country is important, because so many of these pests, such as ticks, mosquitoes and termites, pose serious health and property threats.
Northeast: January was the coldest winter on record for some cities in the Northeast, especially in New England, which experienced excessive, heavy snowfall and frigid Arctic air for much of the winter. When it comes to stinging insects, this extreme cold may have an impact on overwintering populations of mated wasp and bee queens, and will also delay termite swarm season, as the deep ground freezing will thaw much later than usual. However, as the snow begins to melt, areas of standing water will serve as mosquito breeding grounds and good foraging conditions for termites, which could increase the populations as spring turns into summer.
Southeast: The Southeast experienced a much colder winter than usual, which means a potential delay in pest activity as temperatures struggle to rise even now that spring is upon us. While termites have swarmed in some areas in the region, those cooler temperatures will generally mean a later termite swarm season than what is typical, especially if the area sees a cold snap in the next few weeks. Once a sustained period of warmer weather sets in, along with the high humidity and likelihood of rain that is typical in the region, pests such as ants and mosquitoeswill be in abundance.
Midwest: February was one of the coldest months on record for many cities in the Midwest, and residents in that area of the country can expect pest activity to begin later than usual. Although that doesn’t mean pest populations in the summer will be lower, they may be reduced if periods of spring-like weather are followed by one or two hard freezes over the next few weeks. Cold weather can also mean a reduction in rodent reproduction and the natural death of rodents such as mice.
Pacific Northwest: While so much of the country was battered by brutal cold and snow, the western half of the nation has experienced consistently above-average temperatures. A long list of states in the West, including California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, experienced their top 10 warmest months this January. That warmth, accompanied by dry conditions, will likely make for a high tick population, especially in areas with unkempt vegetation and forest cover. These conditions have already contributed to reports of heavy activity from odorous house ants and carpenter ants.
Southwest and West Coast: Severe drought concerns in California have escalated over the past few months. Although winter is typically the wettest season, remarkably little precipitation fell this year. That could be good news in the form of lower populations of mosquitoes, as the lack of moisture means fewer potential breeding grounds. However, the few water sources that remain are likely to be stagnant and a significant draw for the mosquito and bird populations, posing an increased risk for the transmission of West Nile virus. If the weather remains the same, residents can expect ants to be driven indoors and will likely see an increase in tick populations.
Cheese, crackers, crickets?!
Believe it or not, there is a growing appetite for edible insects.
According to the Seattle Times, there is a growing trend of “Entropreneurs” who are trying to persuade Americans to eat more bugs, which require less land, food and water, than other animal protein. Plus, some insects are packed with nutritional benefits.
At least 2 billion people worldwide include insects in their diets, and if the “entropreneurs” are successful, Americans will add to this number. However, there is no doubt that this will be a tough sell.
“Insects are viewed as what ruins food — a roach in your soup, a fly in your salad. That’s the biggest obstacle — the ick factor,” said Daniella Martin, the “Girl Meets Bug” blogger and author of “Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.”
What do you think? Do the environmental and nutritional advantages of insects outweigh the ”ick” factor?
- Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species of termite as they eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage.
- Termite colonies can have upwards of 2 million members.
- Termites are present in 70 percent of countries across the world and their population outnumbers human beings on a ratio of ten to one.
- The queen termite can lay up to 40,000 eggs per day.
Termites are wood-destroying insects. Their presence dates back to the dinosaurs. While they play an important role in nature, experts estimate they cause $5 billion of property damage each year.
Yes, the three major kinds of termites in the United States are dampwood, drywood and subterranean. Dampwood termites commonly live in heavily forested areas of the country as they prefer wet wood; while, drywood termites, much more rare in the United States, prefer extremely dry wood. Subterranean termites require moist environments, live mainly in the soil and are the most destructive species.
Depending on where you live, termite swarms may be visible in the early spring. Termites are often confused with flying ants. Telltale signs of termite infestation include soft wood in the home, mud tubes on the exterior of your home (often near the foundation) and darkening or blistering of wood structures.
Termites eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning damage to wood in and around a structure can happen very quickly. In fact, the NPMA estimates that termites cause $5 billion in property damage each year. The good news is that termites can be controlled with the partnership of a trained pest professional.
Homeowners are most likely to notice termites when they swarm in the early spring. A termite swarm is a sign of a likely infestation. If you notice a termite swarm on your property, contact a licensed pest professional promptly.
There are many steps a homeowner can take to help prevent termites from infesting their property. Most importantly, a homeowner should eliminate or reduce moisture in and around their home, which termites need to thrive. Divert water away from your home’s foundation by installing properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Trim vines, hedges and other vegetation to prevent them from blocking vents. Remove old form boards, grade stakes, tree trunks and roots near a building, as they may attract termites. In addition, maintain an 18-inch gap between soil and any wood portions of your home. Finally, routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of termite damage.
Termites are not a pest that can be effectively treated by a homeowner. A licensed pest control professional will be able to recommend a course of action depending on many factors, including the area of the country that you live in, the size of your infestation, the termite species present and your home’s construction
The National Pest Management Association and the entire pest management industry are committed to providing highly effective treatment options for all pest issues. The most effective type of treatment depends on the severity of the infestation, the species of termite, and the location and construction of the home. A trained and licensed pest control professional can assess each infestation individually and recommend the most effective treatment plan.
Termites cannot be effectively treated by a homeowner on their own. Pest control professionals have the training, expertise and technology to eliminate a termite infestation.
- Install screens and weather stripping on windows and door sweeps on doors.
- Fix any cracks in siding and walls, especially where pipes or wires enter the home.
- Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.
- Wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time.
- Inspect items such as boxes of decorations and grocery bags before bringing them indoors.
- Store clothing inside plastic containers and check shoes before putting them on, as spiders often hide in these items.
- If you suspect that a spider has bitten you, contact your primary care physician for medical advice.
- If you have a spider infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.