Number of tick bites increased in 2013
Robert Koch Institute warns against meningitis and advises to tick vaccine
According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of meninges caused by tick bites in 2013 has risen above average. The experts strongly advise people living in the risk areas outdoors to vaccinate against TBE. The so-called early-summer meningoencephalitis is caused by the TBE virus that is transmitted by ticks. If the disease is severe, FSME may cause inflammation of the meninges and brain, resulting in permanent damage such as paralysis and other neurological impairments.
TBE vaccination is the only protection against meningitis caused by tick bites
„Especially in risk areas more education is needed. There is a correlation between vaccination rates and disease numbers, "explains Wiebke Hellenbrand of the RKI to the news agency „dpa“. Last year, the RKI registered around 400 TBE cases. About half of the patients had a severe illness with meningitis and encephalitis. The treacherousness of the disease, for which there is no antidote, are the symptoms that are initially similar to those of a flu, such as general malaise, fever, headache and body aches, and vomiting. With heavy progressions further complaints can be added. These include neurological problems such as paralysis, balance disorders, lack of concentration, epilepsy and hearing disorders. In addition, impaired consciousness and coma may occur. If the TBE virus attacks the central nervous system, those affected can rarely die of the disease.
FSME is a reportable infectious disease. „2013 was a rather strong year, "says Hellenbrand, who registered around 400 cases last year, compared with 195 cases in 2012 and 424 infections in 2011. The number of cases was usually between 200 and 300 cases per year According to RKI expert, different causes. „For example, it depends on how active the herds are in nature, "explains Hellenbrand. „There is a correlation between the number of mice that 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 FSME is triple vaccination. The vaccination rates for children are quite good, but not for adults in many areas, the expert said. „The infection is much more dangerous for adults than for children. "In some cases, the vaccination rates are even declining.The RKI therefore advises all people who live in the risk areas or reside, to the TBE vaccine, even tourists who spend more time outdoors stop, should be vaccinated.
Risk areas for meningitis caused by tick bites
Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Thuringia and Saarland are classified as risk areas for FSME. Why the ticks carry especially in these areas, the TBE virus and not in other regions, researchers have so far not clarified. „There are also areas where the virus has disappeared in recent decades, "explains Hellenbrand, adding that this is the case in some regions of eastern Germany, and calculations for whether the currently reported risk areas will change will start in March the evaluation of the reporting data.
The mild winter currently increases the risk of tick bites. If temperatures do not drop below seven degrees several days in a row, the nymphs and adult ticks become active again, looking for a host. But even at lower temperatures and snow, the little bloodsuckers do not necessarily die. Ticks can survive frost down to minus 20 degrees.
In addition to TBE, ticks can also transmit Lyme disease. Unlike TBE, no vaccine is available for Lyme disease. Among other things, so-called Borrelia bacteria can cause Lyme disease, which can affect organs, joints, the nervous system and the skin. Walkers and those who work outdoors or in nature can protect themselves with long, body-covering clothing and closed shoes. So the stockings should be pulled over the pant legs to make it difficult for the ticks to access the bare skin. After staying in nature, the entire body should be searched for the animals. If a purpose is fixed, it should be removed as quickly as possible with tweezers or a special ticks forceps, because the bacteria need about twelve to 24 hours to penetrate into the human body. (Ag)
Picture: Jens Bredehorn