Carrier of dangerous diseases: How to protect yourself from ticks
If you roam the forest and fields in the warm season, you should beware of ticks. The small bloodsuckers, which can be active at the beginning of spring and into late autumn, are known to transmit dangerous diseases such as TBE or Lyme disease. Experts warn against underestimating the danger.
Crawling animals have been active for a long time
According to experts, the ticking season is from April to September. However, the little bloodsuckers can also be active at the beginning of spring and into late autumn. The crawling animals can transmit dangerous infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE). Health experts therefore repeatedly point out how important it is to protect yourself from ticks.
Rapid tick removal is important
"The following applies to every tick bite: The quick removal of the tick is crucial," explains Dr. Frieder Schaumburg from the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the UKM (University Hospital Münster) in a message.
"The risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease during a tick bite is significantly influenced by the sucking time of the tick," says the specialist.
It takes up to 24 hours before the pathogens causing Lyme disease are transmitted to humans. "Therefore, you should check your ticks thoroughly after a day outdoors to minimize the risk of infection," said the head of the vaccination clinic.
"The occurrence of borrelia in ticks fluctuates very strongly both regionally and in small areas and can be up to 30%," writes the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on its website.
According to the experts, scientific studies have shown that around five percent of people bitten by a tick become infected with Borrelia.
"Only a very small proportion of those infected, around one percent, develop symptoms of the disease," says the RKI.
Diseases can lead to death if left untreated
Signs of Lyme disease include general symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats, fever and non-specific joint and muscle pain.
If the disease remains undetected and untreated, it can lead to chronic damage to the heart, nerves and joints, and in the worst case, to death.
There is no vaccine against the disease.
Ticks can also transmit TBE viruses. The disease can be severe, especially in older people. Symptoms appear in about a third of those infected.
First, there are flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting and dizziness.
Some patients also develop meningitis and cerebral inflammation with the risk of spinal cord damage. In extreme cases, the disease is fatal.
No drugs are available against TBE itself, only the symptoms can be treated.
TBE no longer only in southern Germany
The bloodsuckers can carry many more pathogens, but in Germany the TBE viruses and the borrelia almost exclusively play a role.
According to Schaumburg, the TBE pathogen is "so far limited to southern Germany".
"However, travelers should take this into account and think about vaccination," says the microbiologist.
However, other experts point out that TBE risk areas in Germany are increasing rapidly and that the disease is now also becoming a growing danger in northern Germany.
For example, Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt, parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim in a message about "brand new hot spots in Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin."
Protect from ticks
To protect itself, Schaumburg recommends common mosquito repellants that contain the ingredients DEET or Icaridin. These make humans uninteresting as prey.
In addition, long clothing should be worn, for example, when hiking or walking through tall grass.
"In the event of a tick bite, you should use fine tweezers to grab the tick as close as possible to the mouth tools and pull it out vertically," explains Dr. Frieder Schaumburg.
He strongly advises against turning or warming up. Instead, the wound should be disinfected and monitored.
“A sign of infection is the so-called blush. This creates a circular reddening around the puncture site. This spreads as the infection progresses. "
Although it is a 100 percent symptom of Lyme disease, it only occurs in half of the patients.
If you are not sure of redness after an insect bite or bite, you can compare it with pictures of the so-called Erythema migrans on the Internet.
If suspected, those affected should consult their family doctor.
If the bacteria have attacked the nervous system, one speaks of neuroborreliosis. Depending on the stage of the infection, treatment with antibiotics takes between a few days and a few weeks. "However, Lyme disease can generally be treated well," says Schaumburg. (ad)