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New giant tick and Lyme disease infections - danger from the tropics


Tropical ticks settle in Germany

They are up to three times the size of their European relatives, have strikingly streaked legs and track their victims over several 100 meters. We are talking about the newly immigrated Hyalomma tick. In 2018, Professor Dr. Ute Mackenstedt from the University of Hohenheim made the first discoveries of the tropical tick species in Germany. How dangerous are the new residents?

"In its home country, the Hyalomma tick is considered to be the carrier of several pathogens," reports the professor in a message from the University of Hohenheim. These include the pathogens of the so-called Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, the Arabic hemorrhagic fever and a form of the tick-spotted fever. So far there have been no cases of these diseases in Germany. However, this could change soon, because "the climate change seems to allow the Hyalomma tick to gain a permanent foothold in Germany," the experts estimate.

The Crimean-Congo fever recently attracted attention in several cases in Turkey and also in Spain. This disease is triggered by a viral pathogen, which is one of the arboviruses and causes a hemorrhagic fever. It is also important because there is no vaccination yet. However, timely treatment with an anti-viral agent can prevent the fatal outcome of the disease.

How big is the risk of Lyme disease in Germany and Switzerland?

However, Lyme disease is currently a more real danger. The disease is by far the most common tick-borne disease in Europe. Ticks that carry Borrelia bacteria can be found in all parts of Germany. Regionally, the occurrence of the pathogens can fluctuate very strongly. In recent years, the mild climate has created favorable conditions for the tick population. But how big is the risk of catching Borrelia in a tick bite and how can you best protect yourself from a bite? Experts from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) provide information.

According to the RKI, the exact frequency of Lyme disease in Germany is currently unknown. However, studies have shown that antibodies to Borrelia develop in 2.6 to 5.6 percent of people in Germany and Switzerland after being bitten by a tick. Medical accounts show that a clinical illness manifests itself in 0.3 to 1.4 percent of people with tick bites. In other words: Depending on the region, an average of every 70th to 300th tick bite leads to Lyme disease. According to RKI estimates, around 214,000 people in Germany are currently suffering from Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is widespread and serious

In a current RKI guide, the experts emphasize that Lyme disease is a widespread disease that must be taken seriously. The tick tick (Ixodes ricinus) becomes active from an outside temperature of six degrees. However, most cases of illness occur from June to August. According to the RKI, children and seniors are particularly at risk. Antibody prevalence was most frequently found in these age groups.

When does a tick bite become dangerous?

After a tick has stuck, it starts sucking. The tick saliva and thus possible Borrelia bacteria get into the host. However, it can take several hours before the first borrelia reaches the host. It is therefore advantageous to remove the tick as early as possible.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

"Lyme disease is difficult to combat for various reasons and a challenge for public health protection," writes the RKI. This is partly due to the fact that there is no typical course of the disease. Lyme disease can manifest itself in numerous complaints or can be completely symptom-free for a long time. A common distinguishing feature is the so-called wandering blush (Erythema migrans), which appears around the tick bite after a few days or weeks. A red ring forms around the center of the stitch, which then slowly moves outwards.

Common complaints that are often associated with Lyme disease include fever, muscle pain, fatigue, and headache.

This is the best way to protect yourself from a tick bite

There is no vaccine against Lyme disease and due to the diverse symptoms, the disease is difficult to diagnose. The best protection is therefore not to be stung. The RKI recommends that you wear long trousers, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes when you are outside in contact with plants close to the ground, e.g. grasses and shrubs. If as much body area as possible is covered, the risk of a stab is drastically reduced. In addition, certain repellents on clothing and skin can keep ticks away to a certain extent. Agents with the ingredients icaridin or diethyltoluamide (DEET) have proven effective here. After a stay in the green, the body should be carefully searched for ticks. This also applies to pets, as they can pass on ticks they have picked up to their owners.

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What to do if you get bitten

Since Lyme pathogens are only transmitted after a few hours, the fastest possible removal of the tick with as little manipulation as possible is of great importance. This can be done with tweezers, for example, which should be placed as close as possible to the surface of the skin. Then pull the tick slowly and straight out of the skin. Tick ​​cards or tick loops can also be used to remove the pests. The puncture site should then be disinfected. If no removal instrument is available, the tick should still be removed, according to the RKI, to prevent the transmission of the pathogens. For example, the fingernails can be used for this. (vb)

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