Much of the population consider ticks to be repugnant animals, but do not pay special attention to their bites, but these mites can transmit a wide variety of diseases. In several regions, the most important are Lyme disease, boutonniere fever, anaplasmosis, tularemia and babesiosis. And let’s not forget the first recent cases of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus.
Ticks are not harmless
Picking mushrooms or admiring the autumn colors while walking through nature are activities that we like to do at this time of year.
But better with attention, because in forests and bushes we can come into contact with ticks, these small parasitic mites present throughout our geography, eager to find a host to feed on blood.
Ticks, with their painless bite, put us at risk of suffering from a whole host of illnesses and cause a large number of hospital visits.
For example, at the Center for Rickettsiosis in La Rioja, between 400 and 500 consultations are carried out a year, but it must be borne in mind that for each case that becomes complicated and goes to the doctor, there are between 100 and 200 tick bites. So says Dr. José Antonio Oteo Revuelta, director of the Laboratory of Special Pathogens-Center for Rickettsiosis and Diseases Transmitted by Vector Arthropods in CIBIR (Center for Biomedical Research in La Rioja).
It’s not a matter of fear, but of caution.
Dr. Oteo and his team have spent years working on studying tick-borne diseases and trying to publicize them. About five years ago they discovered the circulation of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus in ticks in Spain, collected from deer in the southwest of the Peninsula, and which last September gave rise to the first two autochthonous human cases of this disease in our country.
In an interview with the SINC agency, Dr. Oteo says that there are still many people who consider ticks to be unpleasant, but harmless, and he works to spread the word that, although it is not about being afraid of contact with these animals, caution is necessary.
His team recently oversaw a information brochure published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Environment of La Rioja, an area with high activity of four families of ticks: Ixodes ricinus, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Dermacentor marginatus y Hyalomma marginatumwhich brings information about these animals and what to do in case of a bite.
There are many diseases transmitted by ticks, which depend on the geographic area and the parasites that circulate in that area. In Spain, the most important for human health are mainly the bacterial ones, such as Lyme disease, boutonniere fever, anaplasmosis, tularemia and babesiosis. To the list should be added viral diseases, such as the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, and others not purely infectious, such as neurotoxic paralysis.
However, Dr. Oteo claims that the probability of developing diseases in Spain after a tick bite is very low and, moreover, they are cured when treated in time. In this sense, a correct medical diagnosis also plays an important role in the face of certain clinical conditions in an environment with the possibility of tick bites.
How to prevent tick bites
The likelihood of being bitten by a tick in our environment is greatest in spring and autumn, but precautions need to be taken at any time of the year.
- Wear appropriate clothing: light-colored clothing, long pants tucked into socks, long sleeves, cap and tucked-in shirt.
- If you go with your dog, make sure he has the proper antiparasitic treatment.
- If you use a chemical repellent, consult first. And remember that what’s good for your dog is not for you.
- Avoid going through areas with tall grass, ticks usually wait for their host at the top of the vegetation
- Try to walk in the center of the trails and not sit or lie on the edges.
- Do not touch livestock or wild animals.
- Check the clothes for possible presence of ticks during and at the end of the walk.
- The bites don’t usually cause pain or itching, so it’s important to check the clothes, body and also the dog after the walk. Tick larvae are very small, so this review should be thorough, paying special attention to areas where the skin is thin, has increased blood flow or forms folds (groin, armpits, head, behind the ears, elbows, knees). , etc.