TYLER, Texas (KETK) - There's a new virus to be made aware of. It's transmitted to people by infected ticks and it hasn't hit Texas yet, but a local researcher said it is only a matter of time. It's called Powassan or POW virus.
"None so far in Texas but we have the right kind of tick," said UT Health Northeast Infectious Diseases expert Dr. Richard Wallace. "Most of the infections like many of these viruses that are carried by mosquitoes or ticks have a relatively mild disease but they also have a bad side. This one is closely related to West Nile."
Recent cases for the POW virus have been reported in the northeast portion of the country, but by looking at a recent CDC map, Wallace said Texas is the next logical place for it to spread to.
"There's this big cluster right around Tyler, Texas right around Dallas and Shreveport as one of the areas where a significant number of patients with Lyme disease are reported," said Dr. Wallace.
The virus is carried by the black-legged tick, the same one that carries Lyme.
"Deer are the usual reservoir. Deer and small mice and we have lots of those," he said.
Dr. Wallace said many times, people with a tick bite don't feel sick enough to report it, so he believes the number of cases are vastly underestimated in Texas and in other states.
"It's a real risk when you live in East Texas," he added.
It's important to protect yourself, regardless if the virus is here yet or not. He said to cover up, use tick repellents and always do what your mom said when you were little.
"An area where there is ticks, you come home, you take your clothes off, put the clothes in the washing machine and you do body checks," he said.
The CDC advises to avoid folklore remedies like using heat or painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly. They said the goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible.