Tick season is in full swing - how to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases

Tick season is in full swing - how to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases

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Tick season has just begun but the sanitary and epidemiological stations (SANEPID) have already reported hundreds of tick bites. According to SANEPID data, the number of cases of the most common tick-borne diseases in Poland – Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – is on the rise. The most susceptible to bites are those who spend time outdoors from March through November.

Ticks carry dangerous viruses and bacteria, which is why this information should motivate us to become more aware of the risks and take appropriate preventive measures. Anyone can contract the disease, regardless of age.

The greatest threat of tick bites occurs in five voivodships: podlaskie, warmińsko-mazurskie, małopolskie, śląskie and lubelskie. In turn, according to the Provincial Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Warsaw, the population of infected ticks in central Poland and in the Mazowieckie region is growing year by year. [1] Ticks are not only increasing in number within Poland. This problem affects most European countries.

Doctor Agnieszka Motyl, an epidemiologist at Medicover, urges particular caution in areas with increased risk of tick-borne diseases. She stresses that there are ways to minimise the risk of developing serious tick-borne diseases, and these precautions should be taken in this situation when our health is at stake.

Tick-borne encephalitis is considered to be the most severe tick-borne disease. The first signs of infection resemble influenza. Once the initial symptoms have subsided, some people will develop symptoms of meningitis and brain infection: return of the fever, nausea, vomiting, stiffness of the neck, fluctuating consciousness, and paralysis. The disease is caused by a virus for which there is no effective drug. The risk of the virus entering the human body increases as the tick remains in the skin. It is therefore crucial to remove the tick as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the tick bite is painless and, especially in the case of younger ticks, in the larval and nymphal stages, it may go unnoticed. When it comes to tick-borne encephalitis, vaccination is an effective preventive method. 

Doctor Agnieszka Motyl, an epidemiologist at Medicover

Vaccination may be given to adults and children over the age of one. It is safe, effective and practically free from the risk of post-vaccinal complications.
Lyme disease: there is no effective method to prevent it

Lyme disease: there is no effective method to prevent it

While preventive measures may be taken in the case of tick-borne encephalitis, no such prevention is possible when it comes to Lyme disease. We can only use precautions, such as wearing appropriate clothing and using tick repellents. It is therefore important to diagnose the disease at the earliest possible stage to avoid serious complications.

The most characteristic symptom of Lyme disease is erythema migrans. It appears in the bitten area a few days after contact with the tick. Unfortunately this typical symptom does not always occur. In this case, the symptoms of Lyme disease can be similar to those of influenza - pain in the muscles, joints and head, fatigue, and feeling unwell in general. In order to definitively diagnose the disease laboratory tests are needed to determine the presence of antibodies in the blood, or, in the case of neuroboreliosis - in the cerebrospinal fluid. Only the two-stage antibody test can ensure proper diagnosis, provided the typical symptoms of Lyme disease are present. Lyme disease is diagnosed, as opposed to tick-borne encephalitis, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Doctor Agnieszka Motyl, an epidemiologist at Medicover

I was bitten – what do I do now?

If we are bitten by a tick, we should stay calm and alert to any symptoms that may indicate the presence of TBE or Lyme disease. If there are any doubts, seek advice from a doctor who specialises in the diagnostics and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

Medicover provides comprehensive care related to the prevention, diagnostics and treatment of the most common tick-borne diseases in Poland. TBE vaccination is available at all Medicover centres. It is preceded by a medical consultation to ensure there are no contraindications to the vaccination.

In addition, Medicover operates the Borreliosis Treatment Clinics in nine locations where patients undergo consultations with physicians specialising in the diagnostics and treatment of Lyme disease, in accordance with current medical guidelines. In 2016, over 400 patients were seen at the clinics, and already more than 200 patients this year, which demonstrates a high demand for specialised and comprehensive services in this area.

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