Fascinating. Not harmless. A tick transmits among other things FMSE. If the temperatures rise now, the bloodsuckers become active again.
It is that time again. With the rising temperatures, ticks also become active again. And the number of tick risk areas is increasing: Currently, the RKI defines 175 counties in Germany. That is six more than last year. For the first time, counties in Brandenburg. North Rhine-Westphalia thereby. There is an increased risk of TBE infection especially in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, in southern Hesse, in southeastern Thuringia and in Saxony.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 390 tick-borne TBE (early summer meningoencephalitis) cases were reported last year. So, compared to the record number in 2020 (712 cases), the number has almost halved. Despite this positive development: a tick bite can be dangerous. Also because the risk of contracting TBE increases significantly after the age of 40, especially in males.
Thanks to climate change, temperate temperatures mean that tropical tick species from North Africa and Asia are now able to survive in Germany. The majority of TBE cases take place in the months of May to October. Figures for a bacterial infection with Borrelia (Lyme disease) are according to Borreliose und FSME Bund Deutschland e. V. The vaccine is not available for the whole of Germany, as only nine federal states are obliged to report it. However, the annual number of infections is estimated to be at least 340.000, emphasizes the Arag insurance company.
Tick risk areas
The number of tick risk areas is increasing: According to Arag, the current RKI defines 175 circles in Germany. That is six more than last year. For the first time also counties in Brandenburg. North Rhine-Westphalia in the process. Especially in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, in southern Hesse, in southeastern Thuringia and in Saxony, there is an increased risk of TBE infection, according to Arag. There is hardly any region that is considered to be absolutely tick-free. A map of TBE risk areas can be downloaded from the RKI website.
Contrary to what the somewhat unwieldy name early summer meningoencephalitis might suggest, it is not only in early summer that one can become infected with the virus. TBE virus triggers illnesses associated with flu-like symptoms, fever and, in some patients, meningoencephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Since it is a virus, the basic disease cannot be cured with antibiotics. It is only possible to alleviate individual symptoms. And that is exactly what makes TBE so dangerous.
Lyme disease is the most frequent infection
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in Europe. The risk of getting an infection with Borrelia is much higher than with TBE. By quickly removing the tick immediately after the bite, an infection can usually be avoided. The problem: Since the tick administers a locally acting anesthetic during the bite, the bite often remains unnoticed for a long time and is treated too late or not at all. Symptoms are often severe. According to Arag, it can lead to brain inflammation, paralysis or other serious health restrictions. At least: A direct transmission of the Borrelia from person to person is not known; sick persons are therefore not contagious.
So you can protect yourself
Tip from the Arag experts: avoid high grass or undergrowth. Anyone who wears closed clothing with long sleeves and long pants when walking in the woods offers the parasites little attack surface. Light-colored clothing is more favorable than dark-colored clothing, because the ticks can be easily recognized on it. Insect repellents help at least for a while, but are by no means a sure protection against ticks.
Anyone who has spent time in the great outdoors should thoroughly check their body for ticks afterwards. Ticks are tiny and crawl around on the body and clothing to find a suitable bite site for sucking blood. They prefer thin. Warm skin areas. Therefore, the arms, back of the knees, calves, buttocks folds, neck and head, as well as the crotch should be thoroughly searched for ticks.
Which vaccination is possible
There is no approved vaccine against Lyme disease. Against the more dangerous TBE, however, there are vaccines that are well tolerated and highly effective. This vaccination can be recommended to everyone who lives in or travels to a risk area and is exposed to ticks. Also who is occupationally endangered, like forest workers, hunters and farmers, should be inoculated absolutely.
At the same time, doctors who give tick vaccinations must inform patients about the risk of an inflammatory reaction of the brain or neuritis. If they do not do this or do so inadequately, claims for damages and compensation for pain and suffering can be asserted by the patient under certain circumstances (OLG Brandenburg, Az.: 12 U 186/06).
Things to know about the bloodsucker
Ticks belong to the class of arachnids and are distributed worldwide except in the Arctic and Antarctic. Since ticks are parasites, they need other living creatures to feed on their blood. Hosts are birds, reptiles and mammals – and also humans.
Many tick species are dangerous disease vectors between hosts. According to Arag, the widespread notion that ticks fall from trees onto their victims is, however, false. Ticks prefer forest edges and clearings in deciduous and mixed forests; also popular with ticks are stream edges as well as bushes and tall grasses on roadsides.