Experts warn of tick diseases in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- We are in the heart of tick season, and officials are warning people to be aware of tick bites.

And on top of Lyme disease, there's now a new disease being spread by ticks that could be deadly.

Dr. John D. Goldman, an infectious disease specialist for PinnacleHealth, said, "The Powassan virus is something that's new, that's really just recognized in our area, is more of something that can recently cause illness from a tick."

Goldman said the disease is rare, and only 10-20 percent of people who contract the virus have symptoms, which can cause serious problems.

"It can attack the brain. It can cause a very serious illness that can make you very sick. It can kill you, and if you survive can cause some residual problem," he said.

While it is a concern, it's not the only disease spread by ticks that people should be aware of.

"What we've seen in the Harrisburg area is in roughly 10 years we saw a large increase in the number of cases of Lyme disease. This season we've already seen another increase. We've already seen half a dozen cases or so," Goldman said.

While you can get ticks just from going outside, you can also get them from your pets.

Dr. Sara Alfano, an associate veterinarian with Hill Street Veterinary Hospital in Spring Garden Township, York County, said, "If the owner has a really good flea-tick product on the dog, the tick may even bite the dog but then fall off immediately. Sometimes they die, sometimes they just realize they're not getting their meal there. So they may want to look for another source, and that's where it could be a risk for a human."

Alfano said it's important to make sure your animals are protected from ticks throughout the entire year.

She said, "A lot of people think that it's OK to just do it over the summer, and it might be, but more times than not I see them all through the winter. And year-round prevention is really the best policy."

Goldman said it's important to also take precautions to protect and check yourself.

He said, "If it's during the summer, and it's an unexplained fever, you have something that feels like the flu, it's important to think of it."

Officials also recommend you try to keep your skin as covered as possible when outside to prevent a tick from biting you.