Summer brings an increased risk of tick bites, partly due to an increase in tick populations during mild winters and wet springs.
Bites from these parasites can cause serious health problems, including the transmission of infections such as Lyme disease (borreliosis) in our regions or tick-borne meningoencephalitis (TBE) in Eastern Europe, Austria and southern Germany.
What diseases can ticks cause and why are they dangerous?
In Luxembourg, the only infection that can be caused by a tick bite is Lyme disease. This can be transmitted if you are bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia. The proportion of infected ticks varies from year to year and from region to region, ranging from 0% to 30%.
After biting its host, an infected tick feeds on the host’s blood and emits faeces containing the bacteria that can infect the host. This can take 24 to 48 hours, as ticks feed slowly over a long period of time. When a person is infected with Lyme disease, they may initially develop an erythema around the bite area. If the infection is not treated and diagnosed at this stage, it can sometimes lead to complications such as arthritis, facial paralysis or meningitis.
How to prevent tick bites?
Preventing tick bites is important to reduce the risk of Lyme disease. Here are a few simple measures you can take to protect yourself from possible infection:
Wear long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and closed shoes when in areas with dense vegetation. After being exposed, you should check yourself and other family members, especially children, regularly and thoroughly for ticks. Don’t forget to check hard-to-reach areas such as the scalp and armpits. If a tick is found on the skin, it is advisable to remove it completely by gently twisting it with tick tweezers, or to consult a healthcare professional. An infected tick that remains attached for less than 24 hours does not have time to transmit the disease. Finally, before travelling to Eastern Europe, it is advisable to consult a doctor to find out whether vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is recommended.
What are ticks?
Ticks are parasites related to spiders and mites. They feed exclusively on animal or human blood. Depending on their life cycle, they move from small rodents to hinds and deer, or to humans who pass within their range. Ticks can be found wherever there is vegetation and hosts. They live in foliage, tall grass, undergrowth, bushes and along country lanes at the edge of woodland. When attaching to a host, ticks look for a protected area on the host’s body to minimise the risk of being torn off, as they are constantly in danger of being pulled off. Ticks bite uncovered parts of the human body and can sometimes be difficult to find on the head or under a watch band.
Ticks will sometimes prefer our pets, or even large animals, including humans. Ticks attached to our pets will not bite us and eventually transmit Lyme disease. Unlike fleas, they do not pass from dogs or cats to humans.
For more information on preventing tick bites, visit www.tiques.lu.
Press release by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Security