Outdoor goers warned to take extra caution during tick season

Czech outdoors lovers have been warned to brace for the coming peak in tick season at the end of June/early July, a little later than usual after this year’s long winter. Like in previous years, there is a risk from ticks carrying the potentially deadly infection encephalitis, and as many as one in five can carry the bacterial infection borreliosis or Lyme disease. In 2009, more than 4,000 Czechs were infected with the latter, a disease which can have a long-term negative impact on health if not detected and treated quickly. As a result, specialists have said that anyone heading to the forests or parks in the coming days should take care.

While anyone can opt for vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis, no such option exists against borreliosis, also borne and transferred by infected ticks. Last year, 4,300 Czechs caught the disease, one in which quick detection and rapid introduction of antibiotics is crucial. This year the peak season has come a little later than usual, all the more reason why outdoor goers should continue to be vigilante: a little earlier I spoke to Dagmar Hulínská, a specialist on Lyme disease at the National Institute of Public Health, and asked her about the current situation:

“The main season was pushed back by at least a month and although there were ticks in April, we did not detect infected specimens. Many infected ticks died off in the long winter, which is of course good news. But since, of course, temperatures have gone up and that is ideal for borelliosis bacteria. Hungry ticks – latching onto new hosts – are quickly being infected and are able to pass on the disease.”

According to Dr Hulínská, there are many different types of borellia that can affect humans; anyone who catches a carrier tick can be infected within 24 hours. Extra care should be taken whenever outside in any kind of greenery: it doesn’t matter if one is in a meadow, a forest, or city park. Dagmar Hulínská once more:

“Even a park can be high-risk, although there the number of hosts from which ticks can be infected are fewer. In a park, a tick can latch onto a dog, but dogs have antibodies to borreliosis and the disease is rarely caught. The likelihood of a tick being infected is lower. In the wild, there are many more potentially-infected hosts to choose from. There, it’s a different story.”

Signs to look out for if bitten by a tick and potentially infected are widely available on numerous medical sites but anyone with doubts can also submit the specimen that bit them for testing at the National Institute of Public Health. Meanwhile, special care should be taken by the two groups greatest at risk: seniors aged 55 and higher, who spend more time in the outdoors and children between the ages of 5 – 9, where the number of reported cases doubled last year.