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Wednesday 21.11.2018 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte
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Entomologist: at least 5% of ticks in Latvia are infected with encephalitis

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThere have been cases of tick activity during the winter period in Latvia this year. As air temperature increases, ticks become active and start popping up. This means residents should seriously consider vaccination to avoid getting encephalitis from tick bites, entomologists say.

«Ticks hibernate during winter. They become active once air temperature reaches around +7° C. The usual period is the end of March and beginning of April. They do become active earlier in sunny areas – even at lower air temperatures. They mostly stay within areas about 1.20 m above ground level. From there ticks can reach wild animals and humans,» says senior entomologist from Latvia’s Museum of Nature Jānis Dreimanis.

There is a common misconception that ticks are insects. However, they are arachnids. They grow from an egg to a fully-grown adult tick in two years. In the first year of life, tick feed on smaller animals. Once older, ticks climb onto trees and branches from which they latch on to animals and humans, as the expert explains.

According to Dreimanis, approximately 5% of ticks in Latvia are infected with encephalitis, which is a relatively large number. Residents are advised to consider vaccination. There is no cure for tick encephalitis. Because of that, vaccination is the only way to stay safe. Infection can happen within a couple of minutes of the tick biting into the flesh. Encephalitis has a very serious impact on people’s health – it can cause paralysis, disability, undermine one’s ability to think and focus, etc. Even a slight infection can have a serious impact on muscle and central nervous system.

«Tick encephalitis cases can be very severe. Vaccination is the only reliable protection against the infection. Early spring is the best time for vaccination. This is because tick activity is not high. There is a misconception that it is dangerous to get vaccinated in summer – that it somehow makes the illness worse if a person gets it. The vaccine will not lose its strength, but we do urge residents to consider getting vaccinated early,» says infectologist Ludmila Vīksna.

Dreimanis says that volatile air temperatures and the relatively warm January may have caused ticks to wake up early. This means their population may have declined because of it. Warm and cold temperatures caused some ticks to freeze to death. Nevertheless, tick activity may still be unpredictable and increase after a year of low activity.

Experts note that when going to spend time outside, residents should take measures to avoid tick bites. This includes wearing appropriate clothes to make sure ticks are unable to find exposed skin and bite. «It should be said that tick bites can also cause infection with Lyme disease, which has become as topical as tick encephalitis in Latvia in recent years. To stay safe from other diseases transmitted by ticks, now is the best time to get vaccinated.»


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