What you should know about ticks on a trip to the countryside

Danger zones in Brandenburg

What you should know about ticks on a trip to the countryside

Saturday 07.05.22 | 08:39 AM | to George Stephan Rossio

picture: Perspective Alliance / Image

For the first time this season, Brandenburg has identified TBE risk areas. Even walking outdoors with a tick bite can lead to infection. What to consider about vampire now. Written by George Stephan Rossio

With temperatures around 20 degrees and the sun shining, many of them will likely be pulled outside on the weekend. But watch out! A small danger lies in meadows and forests, which can become a big problem – ticks. Insects belonging to the group of mites are particularly active in the months from March to July, explains biologist and tick expert in Berlin Martin Komorek. [zecken-radar.de]. With a single sting, eight-legged spiders can transmit bacteria and viruses that cause diseases such as Lyme disease and tuberculosis.

What do you know about ticks?

According to Komorek, there are about 25 species of ticks in Germany and about 1,000 species worldwide. They are about three to four millimeters in size, which is the size of a pinhead. In our latitudes, the common wood tick is the most common type of tick.

Wood bears love heat and are actually active at around eight degrees, explains Christine Claus, a veterinarian specializing in microbiology and parasitology at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) in Jena. The constant heat in Brandenburg is very favorable for tick activity. On the other hand, severe dryness is their number one enemy, and according to the scientist, ticks need a certain level of moisture.

Ticks are eight-legged spiders. The head, trunk and legs are called idisoma. The part that contains parts of the body is called a hygroma. With a rough bite, the tick captures food – the blood of humans or animals.

Where are ticks located?

Contrary to what many believe, ticks are not found primarily in meadows and tall grasses, but in forests, Klaus persists. There are twice as many ticks per square meter here – mostly in deciduous and mixed forests – than in meadows. Studies have shown this. Scientist Kristen Klaus explains that the soil in coniferous forests is too dry for animals.

In general, adds biologist Komorik, ticks can be found where it is wet and shaded. Animal corridors, roadsides, deforestation, as well as plant-to-plant transition areas are expressly mentioned here. An increasingly common woodcock is found in the city, for example in parks and city parks.

Ticks wait days, sometimes weeks for the host. Within moments, the ticks stuck to their victims. They sting their host in a hidden location, infecting the finest blood vessels. Komorek explains that they recognize their prey by smell, body heat, and/or exhaled carbon dioxide.

Usually ticks are not noticed on the body because they are so small. On the other hand, the parasite secretes a kind of anesthetic when it bites and fixes it with a secretion in order to bond closely with the host, explains Klaus. This “cement” dissolves when the tick swallows its bloody fertilizer.

Are there areas that require special care?

For the first time this season, the Robert Koch Institute [rki.de] Three Brandenburg regions as TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) risk areas due to tick risk. This year, the tick has spread to spiders, mainly in the Oder-Spree, Oberspreewald-Lausitz and Spree-Neisse regions. There are 175 danger zones nationwide. The numbers depend on the weather and how far people are outdoors.

What makes ticks dangerous?

According to Komorek, the tick is not dangerous in itself. However, they are called vectors – that is, vectors of pathogens. If a tick bites a sick host, it picks up pathogens during the sucking process and can pass them on to other people and animals without getting sick themselves, Komorek says. In humans, diseases such as Lyme disease, meningitis, or myelitis (TBE) can occur.

Among other things, the common woodworm Borrelia (Borrelia burgdorferi), which Lyme disease Effects. This is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by tick bites and spread throughout Germany. It can affect various organs, especially the skin, nervous system, and joints. There is no vaccination yet. It is estimated that every third tick is infected with Borrelia, depending on the region, Komorek explains.

However, and that’s the good news, the bacteria’s transmission time is a little longer at 12 to 24 hours, so not every tick bite should cause Lyme disease. The faster the tick is removed, the lower the risk of transmission, says Komorek. Therefore, the biologist recommends thoroughly checking the tick after visiting the forest.

It’s different with tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) From – a disease transmitted by viruses. It usually appears as meningitis and can lead to very serious damage. There are no drugs against the virus and compared to Lyme disease, clinical TBE is usually more serious, but according to Komorek it is also relatively rare. According to studies, there is a 1 in 150 chance of developing TBE after a tick bite in a danger zone, he says.

Because the virus is in the tick’s salivary glands, it is transmitted immediately, Claus explains. However, there is an effective TBE vaccine and one that is immunized, according to the researcher. Therefore, vaccination is a good preventative measure to reduce the risk of contracting tuberculosis after a tick bite. The vaccination of children and adults should be updated at regular intervals.

According to Klaus, 80 to 90 percent of tuberculosis cases in Germany occur in southern Germany, mainly in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Whenever you travel further south, for example to the Czech Republic, Austria or Switzerland, cases of TBE occur more frequently. Studies have shown that TBE viruses have been detected even at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres. In Germany, a small percentage of cases lead to serious illness and in rare cases lead to death. The scientist advises everyone who loves to be outdoors and travels south to TBE risk areas to get vaccinated.

Can animals be affected too?

Dogs, in particular, can become infected with tick bites. These can in the so-called malaria dogs until he dies. Babesia This disease is called, explained Martin Komorek. In contrast to the previous two diseases, it is not the wood tick that is the vector here, but the alluvial forest tick (Dermacentor reticulatus). According to Komorek, this has spread north and east within Germany over the past two to three decades and can now be found in most federal states. Similar cases have recently been reported in the Forest region (Spry-Nice).

Dogs can also get Lyme disease as a result of a tick bite. According to Komorek, cats get diseases like Lyme disease or TBE much less frequently than dogs. However, tick transmission cannot be completely ruled out.

How can you protect yourself from the consequences of a tick bite?

There is no 100% protection. According to Martin Komoric, there are some general rules. So you should avoid staying in tall grass or bushes. You should also wear closed clothes if you are out in the woods. It is better to put socks in the pants. It is good to wear light-coloured clothes. This makes searching easier. Insecticides should also be used on pets. After visiting the forest, you should always look for ticks – especially the back of the knees, stomach, chest and groin area.

Ticks that have been absorbed should be removed quickly. In the case of the wood tick, this reduces the risk of infection with Borrelia, emphasizes Komorek. A biologist recommends holding it up close. The parasite should not be squeezed, and in any case it should be withdrawn slowly and in a controlled manner. This can be done either by hand or with a tool such as tweezers.

The site of the bite should then be examined to make sure all parts of the tick have been removed. After that everything must be disinfected. If the redness around the puncture site does not disappear or even spreads, a doctor should be consulted, the tick researcher advises.

Contribution from Georg Stefan Russo

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