Number of tick bites increased in 2013

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Robert Koch Institute warns of meningitis and advises to be vaccinated against ticks

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of meningeal diseases caused by tick bites rose above average in 2013. The experts strongly advise people in the risk areas to be vaccinated against TBE. The so-called early summer meningoencephalitis is caused by the TBE virus, which is transmitted by ticks. If the disease progresses severely, TBE can cause inflammation of the meninges and the brain and, as a result, permanent damage such as paralysis and other neurological impairments.

TBE vaccination is the only protection against meningitis caused by tick bites “More information is needed, especially in risk areas. There is a connection between vaccination rates and the number of illnesses, "explains Wiebke Hellenbrand of the RKI to the news agency" dpa ". Last year the RKI registered around 400 cases of FSME. About half of the sufferers had a severe course of disease with meningitis and inflammation of the brain The treacherous thing about the disease, for which there is no antidote to date, are the symptoms that initially resemble those of the flu, such as general malaise, fever, headache and body aches, and vomiting. If the course is severe, other symptoms may also occur, including neurological ones Problems such as paralysis, balance disorders, poor concentration, epilepsy and hearing disorders, as well as impaired consciousness and coma, and if the TBE virus affects the central nervous system, those affected can in rare cases die from the disease.

TBE is a notifiable infectious disease. "2013 was a rather strong year," reports Hellenbrand. Around 400 cases were registered last year. For comparison, there were 195 cases in 2012 and 424 infections in 2011. Before that, the number was usually between 200 and 300 cases per year. The fluctuations According to the RKI expert, there are various causes: "It depends, for example, on how active the herd is in nature," explains Hellenbrand. "So there is a connection between the number of mice, which are the most important host animal for the tick larvae and tick nymphs, and the number of ticks."

The only way to protect yourself from TBE is triple vaccination. The vaccination rates for children are quite good, but not for adults in many areas, according to the expert. "The infection is much more dangerous for adults than for children." In some cases, the vaccination rates are even falling. The RKI therefore advises all people who live or are in the risk areas to take TBE vaccination Stopping outdoors should be vaccinated.

Risk areas for meningitis caused by tick bites Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Thuringia and the Saarland are identified as risk areas for TBE. So far, researchers have not been able to clarify why ticks carry the TBE virus in themselves in these areas and not in other regions. "There are also areas from which the virus has disappeared again in the past decades," explains Hellenbrand. This is the case in some regions in eastern Germany. The calculations of whether something will change in the currently identified risk areas begin after March Completion of the evaluation of the registration data.

The mild winter is currently increasing the risk of tick bites. If the temperature does not drop below seven degrees for several days in a row, the nymphs and adult ticks become active again and look for a host. But even at lower temperatures and snow, the little bloodsuckers don't necessarily die. Ticks can survive frost down to minus 20 degrees.

In addition to TBE, ticks can also transmit Lyme disease. In contrast to TBE, no vaccination is available for Lyme disease. So-called borrelia can cause Lyme disease, which can affect organs, joints, the nervous system and the skin. Walkers and people working outdoors or in the great outdoors can protect themselves with long, body-covering clothing and closed shoes. So the stockings should be pulled over the legs of the pants to make it difficult for the ticks to access the bare skin. After spending time in nature, the entire body should be searched for the animals. If a purpose has got stuck, it should be removed as quickly as possible with tweezers or special tick pliers, because the bacteria need about 12 to 24 hours to penetrate the human body. (ag)

Image: Jens Bredehorn /

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