You may have heard in the news recently about the tick borne virus, Powasson, being spread in the north east and the great lakes region. Warnings released from several health officials have prompted news outlets to pick up the story… but the headlines, and even the articles, are very misleading. A prime example is this article:
Its titled “Worse Than Lyme: New Deadly Tick Disease” and warns of a lyme type disease being seen in the northeast. It cites several doctors and studies and warns the disease is potentially fatal. The immediate reaction to this is “omg, I’m outside a lot, can I get this? Am I going to die from this?” But that is exactly what the media outlets want you to believe… which is why they have such an eye grabbing headline. The article, and many others I have read, only tell half of the story.
A much more factual article warns of the disease but also lays to rest the hype surrounding it.
This article, titled “Powassan — Tick-Borne Terror Virus Or Too Much Media Hype?”, warns of the disease but as you would expect, dispels with the doom and gloom and gives the facts (and preventative measures you can take) regarding the new disease.
Powassan is a brain infection, it can be fatal, and its infection speed is very, very fast… if thats all that is reported, it seems to be cause for alarm. However, it is an infection that can be treated with antibiotics and its lethality rate is only 10%… and over the last 10 years it has been diagnosed 50 times… so doing the math, 5 people have died. A person is far more likely to contract lyme disease, west nile, or the flu than they are Powassan…. and each those illnesses cause deaths more deaths yearly in the US than Powassan has in the last 10 years. Also, think about that, the last 10 years….its not new, it just happens to be seen in a new area and may effect a new segment of the population so claiming it is a new disease is very misleading.
This is a case of the media getting hold of a factual piece of information and running with a headline to get you to click a web link or tune in at 6… both of which generate them revenue in advertising dollars. Its akin to yellow journalism and quite frankly, irresponsible. So the moral of the story is, don’t believe a headline… do you due diligence and you’ll see there are reasons, as always, to be prepared (with knowledge of tick species, appropriate bug spray, frequent tick checks, etc) but little reason to be alarmed.