Ticks are becoming a summer pest in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
ticks
ASSSA

Ticks are the ever-increasing summer pest in Spain. At least 6 different species can be found in Spanish territory as wild animals increasingly move to cities. But how much should we be concerned about this and how dangerous is a tick bite? 

It is summer in Spain, and in many regions this has come much earlier than usual. However the summer weather not only brings with it many hours of sunshine and warmth, but also seasonal visitors. The well-known mosquito is back, but another unwelcome visitor is also making its comeback in Spain: the tick. 

Increase in ticks in Spain, according to scientific research 

In the past, ticks were mainly found outside the city in the woods and in the countryside. Today, however, ticks are more and more common, even in the city. So much so that the Spanish media speak of real plagues. Furthermore, scientific research also shows that the number of ticks has increased alarmingly in recent years. 

These ticks are found in Spain 

There are about 900 species of ticks worldwide, of which six are currently found in Spain, reports the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The ticks are prone in different areas in Spain, but together they cover the entire Iberian Peninsula. These are the following species:

  • Ixodes ricinus – the common tick
  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus – the dog tick
  • two Hyalomma species (H. marginatum and H. lusitanicus),
  • Dermacentor reticulatus
  • Ornithodorus erraticus

Ticks are not only annoying but also dangerous as they can carry numerous pathogens. In Spain, there is a particular risk of transmission of the so-called rickettsia bacteria. When a tick is infected with this and transmits it to a human, the chance of various fever viruses or Lyme disease is quite high. 

Draw more and more in Spanish cities 

Some studies show that ticks are no longer only common in rural areas. A 2023 study in Lugo (Galicia) found that 96% of collected tick bites were recorded in residential areas in the suburbs of Lugo. In 2022, another study found four species of ticks on wild boars in the urban area of Barcelona, many of which were infected with the rickettsia bacteria. 

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Few official cases of infection yet, but with a dangerous outcome 

In 2016, the first human infections with Crimean Congo fever (caused by tick bites) appeared in Spain. To date, ten confirmed cases have been registered. Three of which were fatal. In 2022, the Carlos III Health Institute warned of a 191% increase (nearly tripling) in the number of hospitalisations of patients with Lyme disease. 

More animals means more ticks 

According to experts, the increase in the number of tick bites is due to the increasing interaction between humans and wild animals. For example, wild boars and other animals now come to urban areas much more than before and these animals simply bring more diseases with them. The winters have also been milder than before for years. Consequently, many parasites can now survive the winter period. 

Experts emphasise that a tick bite does not always lead to an infection. Only infected ticks can transmit diseases and they are still in the minority, according to samples taken in Spain in recent years. 

What to do with a tick bite? 

Despite this, it seems like Russian roulette when you are bitten by a tick. Prevention is the solution for now. So always check yourself at the end of the day, especially if you’ve been outside a lot. In particular, check the warmer areas of your body, such as your armpits and groin. 

If you are bitten by a tick, remove it as soon as possible with tweezers or a drawing pen. Take a picture of the the area where you have been bitten to check for any reaction. Consult a doctor if there is a skin reaction, flu-like feeling or dizziness. 

Also read: Experts warn of increased risk of pests this summer in Spain

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