In the summer, Spaniards flock to the countryside to enjoy nature and the fresh air. They are increasingly affected by ticks, reports ANECPLA, the Spanish Association of Environmental Health Organisations.
Ticks are usually found in the upper parts of vegetation, and when a warm-blooded creature passes by, they descend in search of the blood they need. Moreover, when they land on the skin of a human or animal, they are barely perceptible. This is because they exhale an anaesthetic before attaching themselves to the skin and sucking out the blood.
ANECPLA calls for extreme caution to prevent these tiny animals from transmitting serious diseases. President Milagros Fernández de Lezeta explains to Spanish news site www.20minutos.es climate change is affecting the increase in tick bites. There are cases where the tick does not fall off. But instead chases ‘the prey’ and moves in a particular way in search of its victim. Furthermore, ticks are now appearing in areas that used to be colder because the climate there is now more temperate’.
Alert to the city
For Fernández de Lezeta, the maintenance of parks and gardens is fundamental to preventing ticks from appearing in cities. In the past, treatments with harmful products were carried out to remove weeds. But this happens much less now because many products cannot be used anymore. In addition, the priorities of local authorities have now changed and this means that the tick is settling in the city.
What diseases can ticks transmit?
The tick can transmit many different diseases. But the most serious are Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever, Lyme disease and viral encephalitis.
Crimean-Congo disease was prevalent in Africa until 2013. However, since then nine people have been detected in Spain, three of whom died resulting from a tick bite.
‘It is difficult for a tick to transmit a disease, but once it transmits a disease such as Crimean Congo, the mortality rate is very high at 30%,’ warns the ANECPLA president, adding that ‘as a reference in terms of mortality rate, that of Covid-19 is between 0.5% and 1%’.
How to prevent a tick bite?
Wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, or use a tick repellent, and avoid areas with higher vegetation as much as possible to prevent a tick bite. It is also common for animals, e.g. dogs, to come home with ticks on their bodies after a day in the countryside. Check the animal’s ears and armpits in particular; ticks will be present in these warmer places. Animals also benefit from the use of tick repellents.
I have a tick bite… What should I do?
In the worst case, when the tick has finally been able to attach itself to the body, it is advisable to have the tick removed by a professional. If you are bitten by a tick, you have to be careful when removing it, because sometimes the tick is pulled out and the mouthparts stay inside, causing infections,’ explains Fernández de Lezeta. Those who cannot go to a health centre can best remove a tick from the skin with tweezers. You grab the head of the tick and pull it upwards to avoid the mouthparts.
It is always ‘important to take the tick to a health centre so that the micro-organisms and parasites that it may contain can be analysed there and then to check whether there is an infection of a serious disease’.