First Southern German Tick Congress: Risk of ticks is highest in southern Germany
The first Southern German tick congress is taking place in Stuttgart this week. Just in time for the start of this year's tick season, interested parties at the congress can find out all about the blood-sucking arachnids, the diseases they transmit and the possible protective measures.
Under the scientific direction of Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt from the University of Hohenheim will host the first Southern German tick congress on March 21 and 22 in Stuttgart Castle. For good reason, the event is specifically dedicated to southern Germany, since the health risks from a tick bite are particularly high. As the professor from the University of Hohenheim explained, the southwest remains the number one risk area in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 120 of the 137 designated risk areas in which ticks can transmit the so-called early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) are in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.
Tick bites in southern Germany more often than in the north According to Prof. Ute Mackenstedt, there is a clear south-north divide within Germany regarding the health risks after a tick bite. "Of the more than 400 FSME cases in 2011, over 85 percent occurred in southern Germany," emphasized the scientific director of the first southern German tick convention. In addition to borreliosis, early summer meningoencephalitis is one of the main health risks of a tick bite. While a Lyme disease infection can usually be treated relatively well with antibiotics if diagnosed early, the TBE caused by viruses can usually only be treated concomitantly.
Overall, the health consequences of TBE are much more serious than with Lyme disease and also much more difficult to treat, the expert explained. In the early stages of TBE, sufferers often suffer from flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, chronic fatigue, indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. After this first phase with numerous symptoms, there is usually a symptom-free period of up to two weeks, which often gives the impression that the disease has already been overcome. However, there follows a second phase of the disease, in the course of which, in addition to the original symptoms, other significant health complaints such as impairments of the neuronal system, motor disorders, dizziness, speech disorders, emotional disorders etc. Paralysis, breathing problems and impaired consciousness are also not uncommon in this second phase of TBE. In contrast to Lyme disease infections, TBEs have the option of protecting themselves against a disease with preventive vaccination.
Significant increase in ticks Overall, the "number and distribution of ticks" has increased significantly in recent years, according to the leader of the first Southern German tick convention. Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are particularly affected. However, the risk of TBE after a tick bite does not exist in all regions. Because within the federal states it depends on the type of landscape how widespread the "common woodbuck" (95 percent of the ticks can be assigned to this genus). While the risk of a tick bite is rather low in the parks created, Prof. Ute Mackenstedt explained that small bloodsuckers are more likely in the shady forest or on wild meadows. The expert pointed out that tick activity would initially increase until June, when the parasites then bite a little less frequently in the particularly hot and dry summer months. A further high phase of tick activity can then be expected in autumn.
Simple protective measures minimize the risk As a protective measure against tick bites, body-covering clothing with tight cuffs on socks, trouser legs and sleeves is recommended, according to the leader of the first Southern German "Tick Congress". Walkers could also pull their socks over their pants to make it difficult for the tiny bloodsuckers to access their free skin. After a stay in the open air or an excursion into nature, the whole body should be searched thoroughly for ticks, Prof. Ute Mackenstedt continues. If a tick is found, remove it as quickly as possible, since only a few pathogens can be transmitted within the first 24 hours after the bite. To remove the animals, a pair of tweezers or a so-called tick pliers is recommended. However, with the often used supposed home remedies, the desired effect cannot be achieved here, the expert continues. “The rumor persists that they should be smothered with glue or oil. Everything please not! ", Emphasized Prof. Mackenstedt, because this only increases the risk of infection, since the animals empty their stomach contents into the puncture wound and bacteria and viruses get into the human organism.
Basically, “Lyme disease is much more widespread than TBE”, says Prof. Around a third of the small bloodsuckers carry the Lyme disease pathogen. After a tick bite, a Lyme disease test is therefore highly recommended, since Lyme disease can be treated promisingly if diagnosed early. The TBE-causing viruses can be detected in significantly fewer ticks, but the health risk should not be underestimated here either. The expert even advises patients who have received a TBE vaccination to see a doctor at the latest two to four weeks after a tick bite to have a TBE possibly present checked. (fp)
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