Number of ticks and tick-transmitted infections on the rise in Czech Republic

Фото: Барбора Кментова

Every summer, a ghastly image of an enlarged tick appears in the papers all over the Czech Republic, warning people against the dangers of these small, blood-sucking insects. The incidence of ticks in the Czech Republic has been on the rise in recent years and with their heightened number, the incidence of tick-transmitted infections - Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis - is increasing as well.

Ticks usually prefer forested areas, especially with heavy undergrowth and until recently, they were only common in low-lying areas. Nowadays, however, you can find them almost everywhere in the Czech Republic. Experts are divided on the possible causes of their heightened incidence. Some attribute it to mild winters, others to global warming and some say it is just a temporary matter. Tomas Scholz is the director of the Institute of Parasitology at the Czech Academy of Sciences:

"Ticks are occurring between two or three hundred levels up to seven or eight hundred meters above sea level. But what happened in the last two years maybe because of some climatic changes, you can now find ticks on the tops of Sumava mountains. We have just found ticks even on top of Stozec Mountain, which is more than 1000 metres above sea level. Now you can acquire biting of ticks even in some hilly regions, in some mountains, where previously ticks were not occurring. We do not know if it is only fluctuation or a consequence of global warming, but people should be really aware of this potential danger."

Czech newspapers regularly publish maps of dangerous areas for holiday makers but places that are not infested with ticks are getting increasingly rare and they are usually not that interesting for tourists and hikers. Tomas Scholz again:

"We have many regions, especially in some very intensively cultivated regions like Polabi, where you have many fields, where there are no bushes, vegetation or forests, where you cannot find ticks. But it should be emphasized that especially along the main rivers like Vltava or Sazava or Berounka, in the region of South Bohemia, and also in western part of Ceskomoravska Vysocina highland you can find high proportion of ticks infected with the virus of tick-born encephalitis and spirochetes causing Lyme disease."

Some people claim that you can drive ticks away by drinking beer or consuming garlic and vitamin B, but experts doubt the effectiveness of these methods and strongly recommend people to follow their advice: that is, to dress sensibly, covering ankles, legs and arms when going to high-risk areas, apply insect repellents and if possible, get a vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis before the start of the tick-season.