The giant tropical tick is here to stay

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Due to the milder winters, the tick season now starts in February. In addition, the warm temperatures also ensure that the tropical giant tick has a pleasant living environment. The leeches come to the Alpine Republic with migratory birds and prefer to ‘land’ on horses. Climate change could make it a permanent home here.

In Austria the “year of the ticks” has already started; After all, five degrees Celsius is enough for the blood-sucking parasites to become active. A first case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), which they transmit, was discovered in February, Jörg Weber, neurointensive care doctor at LKH Klagenfurt, reported in Vienna on Wednesday. “TBE does not have to be the case” was the motto of the media event, which warned about the consequences of vaccination negligence.

With 104 hospitalized people diagnosed with TBE, the number of people affected last year was relatively low, but almost two-thirds (63.5 percent or 66 people) faced serious neurological symptoms, figures from the Center for TBE . Virology from the Meduni Vienna comes to the fore. “The proportion of infected people over the age of 50 was about the same,” says Bernhard Haas of the Institute for Hospital Hygiene and Microbiology of the Styrian KAGs. And this, in turn, is an indication of “vaccination intervals that are not properly adhered to,” the expert explained about the “moderately difficult year” in terms of the number of cases. In 2022 there were approximately 179 cases, in 2020 there were 216. Older patients are generally at greater risk of a serious course with possible long-term consequences, because they are often already affected by other diseases.

The same procedure for vaccination
The vaccination schedule against TBE remains unchanged: the basic immunization consists of three vaccinations and there is a separate vaccine for children. The first booster vaccination should take place three years after the basic immunization, further booster vaccinations should take place every five years until the age of 60 and every three years thereafter. Normally a titer determination is neither necessary nor recommended.

According to Georg Shower from the Animal Health Department of the Food Security Agency (AGES), it is not possible to predict whether the eight-legged animals will be seen in large numbers in 2024. And there are not many who are carriers of the TBE virus, the proportion is in the permille range, its occurrence in Austria is like a carpet of spots – Borrelia, however, occurs in 20 to 30 percent of ticks, but its timely removal is a good idea Means, because the transfer of bacteria takes up to twelve hours. However, if you come into contact with a TBE tick, there is little point besides vaccination.

The whole of Austria is an endemic area for TBE
According to Haas, the species called the wood tick is the main transmitter of TBE in Central Europe – hedgehogs, martens and voles are attacked by ticks, just like humans – and they don’t feel it right away because the insects’ saliva contains pain-dampening substances , “the duration of the tick does not matter, the virus enters the body.” However, it is a myth that ticks fall from trees; instead they live in grass or shrubs, ‘active molting turns lower legs or lower limbs into bite sites.’ In any case, you can encounter ticks everywhere, because ‘the whole of Austria is a TBE-endemic area.”

Early emergence has been observed for years and mild winters definitely favor the ticks, Shower said. The prolonged mild temperatures of the current year have led to an exceptionally early appearance of so-called giant ticks – this is the native species of the “colored tick”, whose population appears to be increasing and which otherwise does not appear on the scene until March. According to AGES, there are 18 species of ticks in Austria, of which the common wood tick is the most common.

Every year is a drawing year
The term ‘tic year’ is not an expression that intensive care doctor Weber likes to hear, because he always deals with TBE patients who are surprised that they are sick. These people would then claim that they heard on the radio that this was not that kind of year. A mistake, because: Every year is a typing year.

AGES asks for giant drawing photos
The tropical giant tick (Hyalomma sp.) is considered a rising star among ticks because it could become a permanent home here thanks to mild winters and climate change. The animals enter the country with migratory birds and prefer to ‘land’ on horses; 70 percent of these reported ticks were found on these hosts. “Giant ticks actively seek out their host, unlike native ticks that wait. This species is problematic because, as carriers of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses, they cause new problems,” the expert emphasized. However, this virus has not yet been detected in Austria. But native species also require close supervision and are monitored. However, AGES asks, especially for gigantic ticks, to send images by email to the address [email protected], but AGES is currently also working on an option to submit ticks.

Source: Krone

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