SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- We've all heard of Lyme disease, but now there's a new tick born virus called Powassan on the rise in New England.

After four reported illnesses in Connecticut, entomologist Bob Russell with American Pest Solution wants to remind residents in Massachusetts the threat is here as well.

The beautiful fall foliage is starting to appear and that means more outdoor activities, but when you’re outside, you should be aware of a rare tick virus called Powassan that can be spread by an infected black-legged tick, otherwise known as the deer tick.

"Powassan is one of the most, well the newer, of tick-borne illnesses. It's been found across the northeast in Connecticut and coastal areas," Russell said.

The virus can make you feel extremely sick showing symptoms of meningitis and encephalitis.

Over the border, in Connecticut, four people recently contracted the disease and one of the cases was fatal.

However, the Powassan threat isn't just in Connecticut.  Massachusetts is one of the few states that have the most cases of Powassan.

According to the CDC, from 2009 to 2018, there were 22 reported cases in Massachusetts, but it's not limited to humans.  Pets can attract the virus as well.

"We are talking about the black-legged tick, which is not the dog tick, but it's the Lyme disease tick or the deer tick.  It is an equal opportunity feeder.  It will feed on birds, mice, dogs, cats," Russell explained.

Russell told Western Mass News what makes this disease so dangerous is there is no cure or treatment, unlike Lyme disease, but he wants to make sure people know this can only be transmitted through a direct bite from an infected black-legged tick.

“If your dog or cat were to have it, you would not be at-risk, but again, these ticks are here and more relevant now than ever," Russell explained.

Professionals say even if it is getting colder out the ticks are still out there, so don’t like the cool weather fool you.

"We are out cleaning up our yard hiking and enjoying this nice weather.  We are putting ourselves at-risk during this time of year," Russell noted.

Russell said the best way to stay safe this time of year is continuing to treat your area.

“Continue with your tick service now and keep in mind, mice can bring these ticks into your home," Russell said.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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