Tick season isn't over yet

A large number of ticks in Prague parks carry Lyme disease

Relatively warm and humid weather has created ideal conditions for ticks, and the season for them is not over yet in Prague. Hygienists collected the most infected ticks in Prokopské údolí and Stromovka.

Ticks were not a problem in Prague until recently. They were more common in forests and fields outside the city, but in recent years they have been found in urban woodlands. The main danger from ticks is Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Hygienists have been monitoring the urban forests Kunratický and Klánovický les for a long time and recently places like Stromovka. Hygienists examined 468 ticks in Prague this season and found that 110 were infected.

“We found the most infected ticks in Prokopské údolí, where Lyme disease infected almost every other tick caught. This corresponds to the results from previous years,” Kateřina Kybicová, head of the State Health Institute's (SZÚ) National Reference Laboratory for Lyme Disease, told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD). “In Kunratický les and in Stromovka, Lyme disease was found in every third tick.” A tick with the TBE virus was found in Kunratický les.

A low number of ticks were found Klánovický les, Divoká Šárka and Ďáblický háj. Around 10 percent of the ticks at those sites were infected, but that may be influenced by the small sample size, Kybicová told MfD.

Tick are collected by members of the hygiene station going through a designated area with a flannel cloth that resembles animal fur. The ticks are then taken to the laboratory for inspection.

While the number of infected ticks seems high, people should know that not every bite from an infected tick will lead to infection. “It is not the rule that everyone who gets a tick will get sick with Lyme disease. It depends on many circumstances, such as the length of the siphoning [of blood] or the condition of the immune system,” Prague Hygiene Station director Jan Jarolímek told MfD.

The ticks can also be found on rodents and birds or other wild or domestic animals, or humans. A domestic dog can get ticks while walking in the woods, and bring them back to the pet owner's home. The tick can then drop off the dog and attach itself to a human.

Kybicová told MfD that people should use insect repellants and check for ticks after going to wooded areas so they can be removed quickly. Lyme disease occurs if a tick has been siphoning blood for more than 24 hours. If the tick is removed before this time, there is no threat of disease. TBE is spread to the host in two hours. There is a vaccine against TBE.

Lyme disease, also called Lyme borreliosis, is caused by Borrelia bacteria in ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding red rash at the site of a tick bite that begins about a week after it has occurred. Approximately 25–50 percent of infected people do not develop a rash. Other early symptoms may include fever, headache and feeling tired. If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations.

Repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur months or years later. Even with treatment about 10 to 20 percent of patients develop joint pains, memory problems, and feel tired for at least six months.

Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infectious disease involving the central nervous system. The disease most often is observed as meningitis, encephalitis, or meningoencephalitis. Long-lasting or permanent neuropsychiatric consequences are observed in 10 to 20 percent of infected patients.

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