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Ticks – There’s more to them than just Lyme Disease.

August 20th, 2020

It seems that ticks and fleas are just here to annoy us and our dogs… am I right? This is especially true when it comes to ticks because of the diseases they carry. Yes, there are more than one. It’s not only the well-known Lyme disease that we need to worry about but tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) too. There are a few others, however, these are the two most prevalent in Europe.

With all the negative associations it’s easy to forget that ticks are also an important source of food for some reptiles, amphibians and birds. Perhaps even for some other woodland creatures too 🤷🏻‍♀️. This fact though doesn’t change my mind when it comes to them and try as I might, I just can’t find any positive feelings that I might have towards them.

Ticks were always very common in Slovakia but here in the UK ticks have become more abundant and have extended their distribution in Europe during the last two to three decades. Changes in farming, global warming, more animals moving around and across the borders, all contribute to this.

Years ago, you might have only come across ticks in rural and wood areas but these days we’re at risk of tick bites when spending time in public areas like parks, beer gardens, picnic spots, gardens, while camping, cycling, running, or doing any outdoor activities.

During our holiday in Slovakia, I heard on the news that the numbers of tick-borne encephalitis have risen. From the end of April till the end of June they reported 26 cases of TBE. Most of them being in the central Slovakia where we were staying. Yay! NOT!

According to the CDC TBE occurs in some forested areas in Europe and Asia, from eastern France to northern Japan and from northern Russia to Albania. TBE is caused by the TBE virus, a flavivirus that is closely related to Powassan virus. The TBE virus has three subtypes: European, Siberian, and Far Eastern and is primarily transmitted to humans by infected Ixodes species ticks. It can also be acquired by ingesting unpasteurized dairy products (such as milk and cheese) from infected goats, sheep, or cows.

We’ve all been very concerned about our dogs catching ticks but we need to protect ourselves as well. When walking in woodlands, the perfect habitat for ticks, make sure you keep to the middle of the path and try to avoid overhanging vegetation. Ticks don’t jump like fleas. They have a different approach…they wait, patiently in the grass, or bushes or other vegetation. And when their target approaches they just drop themselves on.

Wearing pale long trousers, tucked into your socks will help when it comes to prevention. Why pale? Well, if a tick is crawling on your leg, you can see it better and you can brush it off. I always spray my clothes with Tick Off, to provide extra protection.

After a nice walk in the woodlands be sure to always check not only your dog but yourself as well.  If you find any ticks feeding, remove the tick promptly and clean the bite site with an antiseptic such as Soothing Antiseptic Spray. Keep an eye on the area, watch for any symptoms of Lyme disease  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lyme-disease/ and if you feel unwell contact your GP immediately.

How likely is it that you’ll get Lyme disease from a tick?

According to the NHS website, the chance of catching Lyme disease from an individual tick ranges from roughly zero to 50 per cent. The risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on three factors: the tick species, where the tick came from, and how long it was biting you for.

How long does a tick need to be attached to transmit Lyme disease?

In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours. Or even more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and are difficult to see. They also feed during the spring and summer months.

How long does a tick stay attached on you or your dog?

The length of time a tick stays attached depends on the tick species, tick life stage and the host immunity. It also depends on whether you do a daily tick check. Generally, if undisturbed, larvae remain attached and feeding for about 3 days. Nymphs for 3-4 days, and adult females for 7-10 days.

What happens if a tick isn’t removed?

If you don’t find the tick and remove it first, it will fall off on its own once it’s full. This usually happens after a few days but it can sometimes take up to two weeks. Just the same as a mosquito bite, your skin will usually become red and itchy near the tick bite.

I hope this doesn’t spoil your woodland walks.

Protect your dog, protect yourself and enjoy 😊

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