Prevention of Powassan virus disease

Learn how Powassan virus disease can be prevented.

How to prevent Powassan virus disease

Powassan virus disease can be prevented by:

  • protecting yourself against tick bites
  • reducing tick habitats near your home
  • knowing what to do if you are bitten by a tick

How to protect yourself against tick bites

To protect yourself from tick bites when venturing into wooded or other at-risk areas, you can:

  • wear light-coloured clothes to spot ticks more easily  
  • wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • pull socks over pant legs
  • shower or bathe within 2 hours of being outdoors to facilitate a prompt tick check and to find ticks that have not attached yet
  • use insect repellent containing DEET (active ingredient to keep bugs away) or
    Icaridin (always follow directions)
  • do a daily "full-body" check for ticks on yourself, children and pets, and remove any ticks that you find

Ticks can be infected with more than one type of bacteria that can cause human illness. Guarding against tick bites will protect you from more than just Powassan virus disease.

How to reduce tick habitats near your home

Keep your lawn and yard well maintained to prevent ticks from living near your home:

  • keep the grass mowed
  • move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house
  • remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn and around stonewalls and woodpiles
  • discourage rodent activity by cleaning up and sealing stonewalls and small openings around the home
  • keep your pets, particularly dogs, out of the woods and talk to your vet about tick repellents for your pets
  • adopt hard landscape practices, use hard materials like stone and metals instead of soft materials like soil for planting
  • move children's swing sets and sandboxes away from the woodland's edge and place them on a woodchip or mulch foundation

What to do if you have been bitten by a tick

Ticks attach themselves to the skin. You should remove ticks very shortly after they attach. This may help to prevent infection with Powassan virus.

To reduce the chance of getting the disease:

  • use clean tweezers to grasp the head of the tick as close to your skin as possible and slowly pull straight out
  • wash the site of the bite with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol or hand sanitizer
  • remove the mouthparts with tweezers if they break off and remain in the skin  
  • leave the mouthparts in place if you are unable to remove them easily and let the skin heal

If possible, save the tick in a zip-lock bag and record the date of the bite. If you become ill after being bitten, contact your health care provider right away. Bring the tick with you to your medical appointment, as it may help your health care provider assess your illness.

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