Deer ticks continue to ravage America, as a former U.S. Senator, Kay Hagan died this week after a prolonged illness caused by a tick bite.
Hagen died of encephalitis, or brain inflammation, caused by a virus spread from ticks to humans.
Hagan contracted Powassan virus in late 2016, and the subsequent brain inflammation made speaking and walking difficult for her.
Powassan virus is spread by the common deer tick, which thrives throughout the Eastern half of the US. People bitten by infected ticks can develop a life-threatening infection that attacks the brain, causing dangerous swelling for which there is no medication.
Victims of the disease become confused, lose coordination, struggle to speak and may even suffer seizures. And because Powassan is viral - not bacterial - there are no antibiotics or other drugs to treat it. Doctors can do little more than keep the patient hydrated, hook them up to a ventilator if they are struggling to breathe, try to alleviate the swelling to their brains, wait and hope the worse of infection subsides.
One in 10 people who catch Powassan from ticks dies from the disease, and about half of survivors are left with lasting health problems, including recurring headache, muscle weakness and loss and memory problems.
The frequency of deer tick diseases has exploded on Long Island’s north shore, as the deer population has grown.
A typical infected deer - and nearly 100% of local deer are infected - will host and shed 20,000 to 40,000 infected ticks each year.
Three years ago, Lloyd Harbor conducted a deer cull that culled 400 deer - which were dropping 8 million infected ticks each year.