[I wrote this as a Facebook post, but decided to convert it to a blog post in hopes of reaching more people during Lyme Awareness Month.]
Have you seen this article making the rounds on social media? It’s about the Powassan Virus. Here’s what the preview looks like on Facebook:
I have mixed feelings about this article.
First of all, it’s yet another that perpetuates the 24 hour myth about transmission time. A tick does not need to be attached for 24 hours before it can infect you with Lyme! If you get any tick bite at all, you need 6-8 weeks of doxycycline (or amoxicillin for children under 8).
Other than that, I don’t have a problem with the article itself. It could be better, but they’re not minimizing the seriousness of Lyme at least. It’s the attitude of everyone sharing the article that inspired this post.
I’m all for awareness and vigilance about any tick-borne disease, but it’s starting to feel like people didn’t think ticks were a threat before this scary-sounding virus showed up. I’m concerned that when the new stops talking about this, people will think they don’t have to watch for ticks anymore.
I’m sorry, but you’re not safe, regardless of what happens with this virus. Lyme and other infections were a threat before this virus became news, they’ll be there when the news moves on, and they’re still more of a threat right now while the news is focused on this virus.
I don’t like to use CDC numbers, because their accuracy depends on flawed reporting methods, but it wouldn’t be a fair comparison if I included estimates of unreported cases of Lyme when I don’t have the same estimates for the Powassan virus. So…looking only at reported cases, in the past 10 years, there have been 75 cases of Powassan virus and 300,000 cases of Lyme. If you get bitten by a tick, which do you think you’re more likely to get?
Lyme and its co-infections have neurological manifestations too. Lyme can cause seizures. It can mimic MS, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, to name a few. Only protecting yourself while you’re concerned about this virus is like someone talking about a certain type of cancer and you respond, “Oh, I don’t care if I get THAT cancer. I just don’t want this other type of cancer that may be slightly more likely to kill me.” You wouldn’t say that, right? Because they’re all bad outcomes? It’s the same here.
Yes, do tick checks on yourself, your kids, and your pets, but do it because of all the debilitating diseases you could get. There’s a lot more out there than this virus, and you don’t want any of those things either. Take it from me.