Photo: Richard Bartz/Fotolia
Whether ticks have become more resistant to our harsh winters, have increased along with the deer population, or more likely, have acclimated to altitudes which have higher temperatures as a result of global warming, these dangerous parasites are now found in the region up to heights of 1500 metres.
by: Alexis Munier
While tick bites themselves are harmless, diseases spread by their bites are not; the greatest dangers are Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme Disease. For those who spend large amounts of time outdoors, including hunters, farmers, mountain guides and avid outdoorsmen, a TBE vaccine is highly recommended.
Detecting Tick-Borne Disease
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health estimates that 20 – 25% of European ticks are carriers. Yet reassuringly, only 1.5% – 3% of bite victims will contract an illness. It is important to watch for symptoms of TBE and Lyme Disease for several weeks following a tick bite.
Only one in three people infected with TBE will show symptoms. These include headache, fatigue and muscle pain, but can develop into encephalitis or meningitis, which may result in severe brain and motor-skills damage or death. Over 10,000 outdoor enthusiasts are infected each year in Europe, with 200 losing their battle, according to tickalert.org.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that sometimes presents with a bulls-eye or ring-shaped rash surrounding the bite area. Other symptoms to watch for are similar to TBE flu-like chills, fever and fatigue. If detected early on, antibiotics can be taken to minimize contraction of the disease. When left untreated, it may attack the heart, eyes, joints and nervous system. It can also go into remission and reoccur many years later, leaving sufferers with lifelong vulnerability.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Precautions to reduce the risk of tick bite include wearing long pants and sleeves and spraying generously with a tick repellent. Ticks which are too small to be seen by the naked eye may be hidden in clothing. When returning from the outdoors, remove your clothes immediately and do not take them into other rooms.
There are several ways to remove ticks, but experts agree on the best method: Remove the tick using a pair of tweezers – specially designed tick-removal tool exists as well; Grab the parasite as close to the skin as possible (not around its swollen body) and pull straight out; Remove any remaining mouth parts of the tick from the skin afterward; Discard or save the tick to have analysed.
In most other European countries, ticks may be analysed by mail using a kit sold at pharmacies (no such product or service currently exists in Switzerland). However, just because a tick is a carrier does not necessarily mean the bite victim will contract any illness.
Vaccination – Tick The Box
Summer in the Saanenland is ripe with mountain activities; following precautions and discussing possible vaccination with your doctor with ensure you make the most of the region’s great outdoors. For more information, Europe-wide statistics and helpful hints are available at www.tickalert.org.