Why you shouldn’t worry about the tick borne Powassan virus in New Jersey
I can feel it already. The rumblings. The stoking of the embers to try to create a huge flame of fear over the tick borne Powassan virus.
Yes, it can be deadly and yes it has claimed a couple of lives. And yes, it was recently discovered in New York State.
But here's the thing: New Jersey has had just 3 cases reported. Three. Since 2013. (These were in Warren and Sussex counties.) And NONE since 2015. More people get hit by trains every month in New Jersey!
As the weather gets better, expect to hear sensationalized news reports warning that nationally, incidents of the virus nearly tripled over the last 2 years.
While that is true, these are the real numbers, according to a report by NJ.com:
In 2015, 6 cases. In 2016, 17 cases. So the number of cases identified in the ENTIRE US has gone from 6 to 17. Think about that. 17. Even then, nobody is quite sure if the virus is actually increasing, or if people are looking for it and identifying it now.
While it's true that there is no cure for this virus, even if you do contract Powassan from a tick, it is only fatal 10% of the time, although the news media would allow you to believe otherwise. So, for this to be a bona fide threat, first you'd have to get bitten by a tick actually carrying the virus, then you'd have to be in the unlucky 10% who succumb to it.
If you're going to be afraid of odds like that, you might as well be afraid to come out of your house and cross the street in the morning. This is just one of those things that the news media and the Internet like to pick up and start churning out so that people will click away at their scary stories of death and mayhem.
Not that the threat of Zika virus is gone, but remember this time last year when people would barely board planes for fear of a mosquito-borne virus that is much more threatening and in much greater numbers? And now, we barely think of it.
So even if we do see a couple of cases of Powassan here and there, let's just all relax. We'll take our precautions, we'll try to avoid it, and then like every other threat in New Jersey from West Nile to Zika, to high taxes and terrorism, we will live our lives trying not to let the ticks, or the terrorists, win.
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