Monday June 21, 2021

THL suggests tick check after being out in nature

Published : 03 Jun 2021, 01:00

  DF Report

Photo: THL.

Proper protection and performing a tick check after being active in nature, are effective measures of preventing diseases spread by ticks, said the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in a press release on Wednesday.

Ticks are active when the temperature is above 5 degrees, and they are found across Finland.

The highest number of diseases spread by ticks is detected in the summer and autumn.

In Finland, the most common diseases spread by ticks are Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

In about half of the cases, the typical symptom of Lyme borreliosis is a red and expanding rash, but Lyme borreliosis may also be asymptomatic, or symptoms can be similar to normal flu.

There is no vaccine against Lyme borreliosis; the disease is treated with antibiotics.

The THL's national infectious diseases register and the primary health care outpatient care notification register, or AvoHilmo, are notified annually of about 7,000 borreliosis cases.

The clinical picture for tick-borne encephalitis consists of two stages. Usually, about a week after the bite, the patient has fever, nausea, and is feeling ill. This phase usually lasts approximately 4‒7 days, and the majority of infections end here.

Only 20‒30 percent of patients develop the actual encephalitis after a fever-free period of around a week. The treatment of the disease is symptomatic, and encephalitis requires hospital treatment.

Annually, about 60 to 90 TBE cases are reported to the THL's national infectious diseases register, and the risk of the disease varies by region. In risk areas, an average of 1–2 percent of ticks carry tick-borne encephalitis. There is a vaccine against TBE, and the residents of the risk areas receive it free of charge from the health centre.

It takes several hours for borreliosis-induced bacteria to move from ticks to the human body.

Therefore, removing the ticks within 24 hours of attachment can significantly reduce the risk of borreliosis.

Check the skin throughout and pay particular attention to the armpits, groin and knee bends, bellybutton and waist area, scalp and hair, ears and around the ears.

Also check clothes for stuck ticks. Also check the skin and fur of pets, as they can carry ticks indoors. If necessary, discuss the prevention of ticks in pet animals with the local veterinarian in more detail.

If you find an attached tick, remove it immediately by grasping it as close to the skin surface as possible, and pulling it smoothly away from the skin. Wash and disinfect the bite site and mark the day in the calendar to keep it in memory if necessary.

The THL urged to dress in light-coloured, long-sleeved and long-legged clothes, as ticks stand out better from light-coloured clothes, Putting the pant legs inside the socks and wear long boots while spending time in nature.

"Many Finns are concerned about the diseases spread by ticks, and assess the risk of, for example, TBE infection much higher than it really is. The risk should not be underestimated, but it should not be exaggerated either, and there is no need to limit spending time in nature in fear of ticks. With the help of the right kind of protection and performing a tick check, you can enjoy nature in peace, "said Henna Mäkelä, Researcher at the THL.