Diseases: Experts warn of infections: ticks are already active

As a result of the persistently mild weather, ticks in this country have gotten through the winter well so far and are already very active.

Diseases: Experts warn of infections: ticks are already active

As a result of the persistently mild weather, ticks in this country have gotten through the winter well so far and are already very active. "There is no longer a winter break. I have already received samples, there are already the first infections. So the ticks are there early on," warned Ute Mackenstedt, parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart.

With a lead time of around four weeks until the diagnosis of transmitted tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), those affected must have been infected in the middle of winter.

The current year could be a pronounced year for ticks, said Mackenstedt. Research is also identifying - especially in Baden-Württemberg - more and more so-called natural foci: spatially limited areas with ticks that carry the TBE pathogen.

Researchers advise in Stuttgart

The Stuttgart parasitologist and other researchers will come together for a scientific conference next week (February 26-28). At the 7th South German Tick Congress they will discuss biological, epidemiological and ecological aspects of ticks and the pathogens they transmit and present study results. The congress takes place at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart.

In Germany, ticks transmit not only TBE but also Lyme disease. The first symptom of Lyme disease is often increasing redness around the puncture site; nerves, joints and the heart can later be affected by the bacteria. Most infections have no symptoms.

TBE is caused by viruses. Most infections here also have no symptoms. The risk of serious illness is significantly increased in people over 60 years of age. In the first phase there are often flu-like symptoms, which can later be followed by inflammation of the brain, meninges or spinal cord. Permanent long-term consequences are possible.

High risk especially in southern Germany

In risk areas, according to the Baden-Württemberg State Health Office, the probability of a TBE infection after a tick bite is 1 in 50 to 1 in 100. According to the RKI, there is a risk of infection primarily in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, in southern Hesse, in southeastern Thuringia, in Saxony and, since last year, also in southeastern Brandenburg. There are also individual risk areas in other federal states. In such areas, the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) recommends TBE vaccination.

TBE infections in humans must be reported in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), last year the number of cases in Germany fell from 627 cases the year before to 527 cases. In Baden-Württemberg, TBE cases fell from 209 to 143; in Bavaria, after 291 cases, there were still 265. However, experts warn of a long-term upward trend, earlier infections and a significantly higher infection rate than previously assumed. Many TBE infections have not yet been recognized as such.

Experts recommend long sleeves

Experts recommend protecting yourself from ticks outdoors from spring to autumn. Simple means such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy shoes and socks are usually enough. It's a good idea to pull your socks over your trouser legs. This makes it much more difficult for the parasites to find areas of skin, bite and suck blood. There are also chemical repellents - similar to those used against mosquitoes - that have a temporary effect.

After a walk in nature, especially away from wide paths, it is always advisable to check yourself and especially children for ticks, according to the RKI. The parasites particularly like to settle in the softer skin of the armpits and knee bends, under the armpits, at the hairline or in the genital area.

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