The weather is warm, schools are getting out, and people are venturing off into the wild for outdoor adventure—and to face the perils of tick-infested woods and fields. Visits to urgent care sparked by fear of tick-borne illnesses are sure to follow. In addition to well-known (though still relatively uncommon) diagnoses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the newly identified Human Powassan (POW) virus can be deadly in some cases. Its symptoms are similar to Lyme disease—fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures—making it difficult to identify. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that POW can infect the central nervous system and cause encephalitis and meningitis; around 10% of cases are fatal, and roughly half of survivors have some degree of permanent neurological symptoms, including recurring headaches, muscle wasting, and memory problems. Diagnosis is often based on clinical features, combined with consideration of travel to areas where the infection has been identified. Laboratory confirmation involves testing serum or cerebrospinal fluid. In addition to vigilance for tick-related illnesses, urgent care providers are urged to remind all patients who live in or frequent spaces where ticks may flourish to check themselves, their children, and outdoor animals for ticks frequently.
Get Ready for an Uptick in Tick-Related Visits