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Ticks are dangerous bloodsuckers, but humans are wrong choices for arachnids
Some people are bitten by ticks more often than others, which are rarely or not at all affected by the arachnids. What is the reason for this has so far been a mystery. Experts suspect that the smell plays a role in this. However, contact with a human usually has little advantage for the tick. If she gets into heated rooms, she will very likely die after a short time.
The smell may play a major role for ticks. Ticks normally react to three different stimuli in a host animal: heat, movement and chemotactic factors, which mainly include fragrances, explains Christine Klaus from the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) in Jena to News agency "dapd". Although the tick is not dangerous per se, it can transmit serious diseases such as TBE brain inflammation or Lyme disease, so vigilance is always required. While there are vaccinations against TBE, only precautionary measures such as wearing long trousers and tick-repellants protect against Lyme disease. Ticks have been around for many centuries, reports Klaus, a scientist at the National Reference Laboratory for Tick-borne Diseases at the FLI. "You have to come to terms with the ticks as with any other risk."
As a rule, contact with humans is not advantageous for ticks. If they get into the human home, they die quickly due to the lack of humidity. "Humans are a wrong decision for the tick," explains Klaus. Likewise, contact with pets, which could also be infected with Lyme disease and TBE, is often fatal to ticks for similar reasons.
Ticks survive harsh winters In order to survive, the arachnids need high humidity, sufficient host animals for their blood meal, which include hedgehogs, foxes, mice and other forest mammals, as well as certain temperatures. Ticks survive frost down to minus 20 degrees. However, their activity only increases from five to six degrees plus.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has identified certain risk areas for the TBE pathogen. These include above all Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and some regions in southern Hesse, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate. Susanne Glasmacher, spokeswoman for the RKI, explains that the number of TBE diseases has remained relatively stable in recent years. 432 people became infected in 2005 and 546 in 2006. In 2007 there were 239 victims and in 2008 289 cases were registered. 313 diseases occurred in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, 260 and 423 people contracted TBE, respectively.
Since Lyme disease is not a notifiable disease in most of the federal states, there are no precise figures for this disease. Between 2004 and 2010, 4,000 to 6,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the RKI in eastern Germany. However, experts assume that the number of unreported cases is much higher, since the disease, which usually affects the nervous system, is often diagnosed late.
No vaccination against Lyme disease While there is a vaccine against TBE, there is no vaccine against Lyme disease. It is estimated that five to 40 percent of ticks can be affected by Borrelia. An existing infection also does not protect against new infections.
Klaus cautiously rejects the rumor that ticks have spread due to climate change. Such a statement cannot be clearly made. According to Swedish studies, it may have spread northwards. Scientists from the Czech Republic discovered the arachnids at a height of 1000 meters. Klaus adds that there is no reliable data from previous years. Therefore it could not be clearly determined whether the total number of ticks had increased.
Precautions to protect against ticks Against tick bites, according to Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt, head of the first Southern German “Tick Congress”, recommends body-covering clothing with tight cuffs on the legs, socks and sleeves. Walkers could also pull their socks over their pants to prevent the tiny bloodsuckers from having access to free skin. After a stay in the open air or a trip into nature, the entire body should be thoroughly searched for ticks, the expert advises. If a tick is attached to the body, remove it as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of infection. Only a few pathogens can be transmitted within the first 24 hours after the bite. Tweezers or tick pliers are used to remove the arachnids. With the widely used supposed home remedies such as glue or oil to suffocate the animal, the expert says that the desired effect cannot be achieved here. In this way, the risk of infection is only increased, since the ticks empty their stomach contents into the puncture wound and, as a result, more bacteria and viruses get into the human body. (ag)
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