With spring comes the tick season: What you need to know in Germany

With spring comes the tick season: What you need to know in Germany

Along with the Easter holidays and the promise of better weather in Germany, the arrival of spring means something else, too: tick season has begun. Here’s what you need to know about protecting yourself from these disease-transmitting critters in Germany. 

Ticks active in more and more regions in Germany

These bloodsuckers are more than just unsightly - they can transmit potentially fatal diseases, making them a nuisance for walkers and people who work in the great outdoors. With climate change meaning that ticks spread to more and more parts of Germany each year, experts are expecting the number of cases of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) to increase. 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that causes rashes and flu-like symptoms. It’s usually easy to treat if it’s diagnosed early. It can be caught anywhere in Germany, but only around 20 percent of ticks in the federal republic carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease - and the proportion varies significantly from place to place.

TBE risk areas in Germany

The risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis (TBE or FSME in German), on the other hand, is limited to certain parts of Germany - primarily in the southern federal states like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. However, with the spring and summer months getting consistently warmer, TBE is being found in more and more regions. As of 2024, the Robert Koch Institute has added some regions in Brandenburg, Hesse, Lower SaxonyNorth Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, SaarlandSaxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia to its list of TBE risk areas.

However, recent research by parasitologists in Stuttgart has found that no region in Germany can be considered completely safe when it comes to ticks, after discovering that ticks carrying TBE are present pretty much nationwide. 

Most cases of TBE only result in flu-like symptoms, but in rare cases it can result in a more serious infection manifesting itself as meningitis. In recent years, the number of reported cases of TBE in Germany has risen significantly: up to 627 in 2022 and 527 in 2023. Around 85 percent of these cases occurred in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

How to protect yourself against Lyme disease and TBE

Ticks thrive in warm and wet weather, so look out for the critters if you’re out in the countryside in the summer months, particularly if it has rained recently. Although they are typically found in meadows and other areas with long grass, experts have noticed that the persistently high temperatures in recent years have caused ticks to start to move towards the edges of forests. There, they wait for passing humans or animals to brush past and pick them up. 

The best protection against ticks is prevention: wear long trousers and sleeves when walking in areas of tall grass and vegetation. Wearing insect repellent can also help. After walking, you should check yourself thoroughly for ticks and quickly and carefully remove any that you do find. 

Experts also recommend that anyone who lives in a TBE risk area should get themselves vaccinated against the disease. Two injections of the vaccine will protect you for around a year, while a booster shot protects you for an additional three years. If you are concerned, you can speak to your doctor about getting a vaccination. If you live in a risk area, the cost should be covered by your health insurance.

Finally, it's also worth noting that the concept of a "tick season" is becoming less and less relevant with climate change bringing warmer temperatures to Germany, allowing the ticks to remain active all year round. This is shown in the fact that cases of TBE are being reported to the Robert Koch Institute earlier and earlier each year. So, while you should be most cautious during the spring and summer months, it's good practice to take measures to protect yourself whenever you spend time outdoors. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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