More activity after a warm winter
The number of TBE viruses transmitted by ticks has increased significantly in the Southwest. But there are big differences between regions. One district stands out in particular.
They hide in the bushes and on blades of grass. Often you only notice them when it’s too late. Once the attacker anesthetized the victim locally with saliva. When their claws tear the skin and the proboscis is already anchored in the tissue. He may feast on his host’s blood for days.
The tick is one of the most insidious species that can be found on a summer walk. And one of the most dangerous, because tiny arachnids of the mite order are considered important vectors of diseases, especially Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).
This year, the little bloodsuckers are especially widespread in the Southwest. Tick expert Alexander Lindau says: “There is high or very high level of activity in the areas we are exploring in southern Germany.”
A parasitologist studies ticks at the University of Hohenheim. According to him, the increase in volume this year is mainly due to the mild winter.
However, this does not always affect the number of diseases. “Just because there are many ticks does not mean that there are also many TBE diseases.” Unlike Lyme bacteria, TBE viruses aren’t found everywhere, an expert says. Sometimes TBEs are just an area of one or two soccer fields.
All of Baden-Württemberg is a risk area – except in one city
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that can damage the nervous system, joints and organs. A famous affected person is American singer Justin Bieber, who contracted Lyme disease in 2019 and complained of facial paralysis. Positive: Lyme disease can be treated well with antibiotics in the early stages.
There is no cure for TBE caused by viruses. The disease often resembles the flu and is harmless, but it can also lead to severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
After all, you can get vaccinated against TBE, which, according to the Standing Committee on Vaccinations, provides 99 percent of protection. Stiko recommends vaccinating people who live in the so-called risk areas of KZŻ and are “exposed to ticks”, i.e. they are often found in forests and meadows.
It is especially easy to remember where these risk areas are in the Southwest. “All of Baden-Württemberg, with the exception of the district of Heilbronn, is a TBE risk area,” explains Pascal Murmann from the Stuttgart Ministry of Health.
Minister Manfred Lucha’s (Greens) spokesman (Greens) reported that the number of TBE cases in Baden-Württemberg increased significantly by around 40 percent in the first half of the year.
“A total of 75 TBE cases from 28 rural and urban Baden-Württemberg counties, 20 more than in the same period last year, have been reported to the state department of health since the beginning of the year,” says Murmann.
However, fluctuations are not uncommon. The disease has been compulsorily notifiable since 2001, but the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher than official figures, as mild forms are often not recognized.
TBE: Ostalbkreis is particularly hard hit
What the tick researcher Lindau says about the irregular distribution of KZF areas is also confirmed by the state health agency database. As a result, the Ravensburg County is particularly affected by 13 TBE cases.
It is followed by the district of Ostalb with six cases, and Calw, Ortenau, Rottweil and Zollernalb with four cases. Only one case of TBE has been reported in the city and district of Karlsruhe, Pforzheim and Enzkreis.
There has been a recent decline in the number of cases across the country. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded 390 cases of TBE last year, in 2020 there were 712 cases of TBE.
Lyme disease is not reportable. There are only case estimates. “Nationwide, 60,000 to 80,000 new cases are assumed each year. This means that in Baden-Württemberg there are around 8,000 to 10,500 cases, ”says spokesman Lucha Murmann.
Tropical ticks can transmit spotted fever
As with mosquitoes, scientists are watching immigration from more southern regions. In a recent study, parasitologists at the University of Hohenheim found several tropical Hyalomma ticks.
They are much larger than native ticks and have striped legs. They can be brought into Germany by migratory birds and transmit pathogens native to Africa, such as spotted fever.
In Germany, the best dog for ticks is the common wood tick, which can transmit Lyme disease and TBE. The riparian tick, which the State Health Authority says is particularly well represented in Karlsruhe, on the Rhine and in the Kinzig Valley, has spread significantly in recent years. As hosts, it prefers larger pasture and wild animals. Transmission of the TBE virus to humans is very rare, according to the RKI.
What does it protect? Experts recommend a combination of preventive measures when hiking in the woods and meadows: the right tick spray and protective clothing: put long pants in socks and wear sturdy shoes.
Smaller children should wear a hat. If there has been a sting, stay calm. The bloodsucker can be checked and completely removed with tweezers or a tick card from the pharmacy, and then disinfect the wound.