The population of ticks in Estonia has increased significantly over recent years. The milder climate has made it easier for them to survive through the winter months and increase their numbers during the spring and summer seasons. This means that anyone who spends time outdoors should take extra precautions against tick bites. With such risks involved, it is important to understand how to protect yourself and your family from tick bites, as well as why vaccination is so important. Salu can help you get ready for tick season!
What are the diseases that ticks carry?
Ticks are more than just unpleasant parasites – they can spread a number of awful diseases! Some can cause lifelong health problems. Among the diseases are – tick-borne Encephalitis and Lyme disease.
Tick-borne Lyme Disease:
Lyme disease is characterized by fever, headache, general weakness, dizziness, joint and muscle pain, and weight loss. The main symptom of the disease is a skin rash, which is a reddish spot with a diameter of at least 5 cm. It usually develops at the site of the tick bite in 60-80% of infected people within 1-4 weeks after the tick bite. Over time, the rash will disappear.
Untreated Lyme disease can damage the nervous system, heart, or joints. And in many cases, it can even go unnoticed until further symptoms show up. It is treated with antibiotics. After contracting Lyme disease, immunity does not develop, and the person can be infected again.
If a person is infected with the tick-borne encephalitis virus then first flu-like symptoms appear after 1-2 weeks. Mild fever with headache and muscle aches can also occur. The discomfort lasts up to a week, after which most people recover. Lifelong immunity develops after contracting tick-borne encephalitis.
In a third of the cases of those infected, the virus can invade the brain and meninges, which can lead to meningitis or more severe health complications. That’s why it’s very important to monitor your overall health after a tick bite.
If the disease worsens – high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, vomiting, drowsiness, and general malaise occur, you should immediately consult a doctor.
How to protect yourself during tick season in Estonia?
Thankfully there are ways you can protect yourself and your family from these dangers. One of them being a vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis. About 95% of those vaccinated receive complete protection against tick-borne encephalitis. There is no vaccine against Lyme disease, but the disease can be prevented by avoiding tick bites.
To prevent a tick bite:
- Wear light-colored and long-sleeved clothing to detect ticks easier. Tuck pant legs into socks or rubber bands, so they can’t crawl inside your clothes.
- Use insect repellents. Usually anything that works for mosquitoes, also works with ticks.
- After being outdoors, check the whole body carefully to make sure no ticks are crawling around (also behind the ears and around the hairline). It’s always a good idea to take a bath or a shower after being outdoors to make sure no hidden ticks are missed.
- Check your pets, because ticks can get into the house with them as well.
A good time to start vaccinating is now!
A complete vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis consists of three injections. The first two are done with an interval of 1-3 months, the third 9-12 months later. After two injections, the immunity lasts one season. To extend the immunity, you need the third vaccine. After that, a repeated injection is required every three years.
It’s recommended to start vaccinating against tick-borne encephalitis by the time ticks are at high-risk, which in Estonia is from April to October, but a mild winter can extend it. This way, your body has time to develop immunity from the vaccine. So springtime is the perfect time to start thinking about how you want to prepare yourself for tick season.
Consult with your doctor to get more information on vaccination, when to get it, and its cost. Salu’s medical team can help you out!