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Earlier today, the New York Department of Health released information regarding their surveillance efforts in Saratoga County for ticks testing positive for tick-borne illnesses. Of the 2,700 ticks collected for testing in 2017, 22 ticks from five locations, tested positive for Powassan, including ticks collected at Saratoga National Historical Park.
The Powassan virus is a rare viral disease that can cause symptoms ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to life threatening encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The disease remains extremely rare in New York State with only 26 confirmed cases since 2000. Only three confirmed human cases of Powassan virus have been identified in New York State this year, all located in Saratoga County.
The Department of Health plans to continue their surveillance and testing in the fall with the collection of adult ticks from many of the same sites, as well as collection and testing of blood from hunter-killed deer for previous exposure to Powassan. Additional education programs for hunters, school districts, and libraries will be developed through various state offices.
“Visitor health and safety are top priorities for us here at Saratoga National Historical Park and ticks are a concern every year,” noted park Superintendent, Amy Bracewell. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the natural surroundings responsibly. Before, during, and after your visit to the park, take safety precautions to avoid ticks.”
The Center for Disease Control advises people to use insect repellent when going outside. Walking in the center of trails and avoiding high grass and brush at trail edges will also reduce your chances of encountering ticks. Check for ticks daily on yourself, your children, and your pets and shower soon after being outdoors. If you do find an attached tick, carefully remove with fine point tweezers and watch for symptoms. Consult with your doctor if any symptoms arise.
For more information about tick safety and tick-borne illnesses, please see the CDC’s website on ticks: www.cdc.gov/ticks.