2018 is a "tick summer"

Researchers warn: number of ticks reached record levels this year

There are a particularly high number of ticks this summer, which increases the risk of the diseases they transmit. © Schlegelphotos / iStock
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Attention bloodsuckers: This summer there are a particularly large number of ticks - as never before in the last ten years, as researchers have determined. The extreme "tick-summer" increases the risk of being bitten by these bloodsuckers. Thus, the transmission of diseases such as meningitis or Lyme disease is increasingly possible. On average, every fourth tick in Germany carries the pathogens of Lyme disease in itself.

There are around 20 types of ticks here in Germany - and they are currently active in summer. On grasses, bushes or other undergrowth they wait for their prey - mostly smaller mammals, but also dogs, cats or us humans. If the tick reaches the skin, it bites and sucks blood. She gives some of the blood mixed with her saliva back - and this is where danger threatens. Because especially the common wood buck (Ixodes ricinus) can transmit with us the viral causative agents of the tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), as well as the bacterial Lyme borreliosis.

More than in the last ten years

Tick ​​researchers now report that this summer will be particularly ticks. "Overall, the risk is particularly high this year, " says Gerhard Dobler of the German Center for Infection Research. "We will have the highest number of ticks in the last decade." Based on their predictive models and regular sampling, researchers predict that by 2018, 443 ticks per standardized area.

"We have the highest number of ticks we have collected since the beginning of the study - good for the ticks, bad for us, " says Dobler. For comparison: in 2017 there were only 180 ticks on the same area. For walkers and those who are in the green, this means: After each stay in the open air, carefully search to find and remove ticks before the bite. For a long time, trousers stuffed in the stockings make it harder for the bloodsuckers to get to the skin.

Our most common tick is Ixodes ricinus - also known as the common wood buck © thinkstock

Causes: Mild winter and beekeeping mast

The reason for the tickle flood is a combination of several factors, as the researchers explain. One are mild winters. They promote the activity and prosperity of the bloodsuckers. In addition, as a result of climate change, we can now also find more southern species of ticks in Germany. At the same time, the risk areas for FSME meningitis continue to shift northward. display

The second factor is the beechnut mast: Studies show that two years after a particularly beechnut-rich autumn, especially many ticks occur. Because the abundance of small tree mammals increases the number of smaller mammals, the ticks find particularly high prey in the following years and multiply rapidly. 2016 was such a beechnut year and this year we get the tick receipt for it.

Risk for Lyme disease and TBE

The danger: When biting ticks, two very different diseases can be transmitted. Lyme disease is common in Germany on average every fourth tick carries the bacteria in itself. There is no vaccine against this disease, but it can be treated with antibiotics. Warning signs of an infection may be a warning around the bite site and after a few days flu-like symptoms. If the borreliosis is not recognized, it can lead to paralysis, joint pain and heart problems.

Regionally, however, the risk is very different for the second disease transmitted by ticks: the early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE). There is no effective remedy for this viral meningitis, but there is a protective vaccine. TBE risk areas are mainly in southern Germany, but with climate change the danger zone is gradually spreading northwards.

To prevent the danger of meningitis, one should get vaccinated, so the appeal of the scientists. Especially in southern Germany, where the density of virus-infected ticks is higher.

(German Center for Infection Research, 29.06.2018 - NPO)