Tick season in Germany: Look out for "flying ticks"
Tick season is upon us in Europe. These little parasites latch on to humans and animals alike and can transmit a variety of tick-borne diseases. Here's what you need to know about ticks in Germany.
Tick season in Europe
Tick season has made its unwelcome return to Europe for this year and, thus, to Germany as well. The tiny bloodsuckers can usually be found in grassland or woodland areas and often cause real problems for farmers, as they frequently attack livestock, which can lead to the transmission of pathogens amongst the animals, anaemia, and damage to wools and hides.
Ticks can cause similar problems amongst humans, spreading diseases like tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease, as well as some other, lesser-known diseases like babesiosis and boutonneuse fever. In 2019, a Hyalomma tick even infected a man in North Rhine-Westphalia with typhus.
Beware of "flying ticks"
Between July and October, the deer louse fly is also active in Germany. Sometimes known as a "flying tick", these critters make a beeline for their target and then shed their wings when they land, burrowing down, biting and sucking blood from their victims. The ticks usually target animals, but attacks on humans have been recorded. They prefer to bite humans on the scalp or neck and can cause allergic reactions and even heart infections.
Deer louse flies are usually found in forests in the summer and autumn. It is recommended to thoroughly check any pets after walks in case they have been bitten by ticks. Ticks can be located using a flea comb and removed with adhesive tape or washed away. Any animal that has been infested with ticks should be bathed and washed.
Protect yourself against ticks
For 2021, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has designated 169 districts in Germany as TBE risk areas. In 2020, there were 704 cases of TBE in Germany, which represents double the annual average and the highest number of cases since records began in 2001. In order to protect yourself against the disease if you live in a risk area, experts recommend getting the TBE vaccination. "If you are vaccinated, you will not get TBE. It's that easy," said Tomas Jelinek, Scientific Director at the CRM Centre for Travel Medicine.
However, the most effective mode of protection is prevention. Wearing bright, tight-fitting clothing will allow you to spot ticks easier, should they attach themselves to you. When out in the countryside, especially when walking in thick grass or undergrowth, it is also advised to wear clothes that cover your arms, legs and any other parts of your body that might be left open for ticks to latch onto. Wearing hats and closed shoes is also advised.
Tick repellent can also help keep the bloodsuckers at bay. Sprays with active chemical ingredients, such as icaridin, diethyltoluamide (DEET), para-methane-3,8-diol (PMD) and citriodiol are great at repelling ticks and mosquitos. However, anti-tick products that contain essential oils instead of chemicals, as well as home remedies like black seed oil or garlic, have proven less than effective against ticks.