In recent days, the case of the woman who died in Sardinia after the sting that caused her a bad infection has rekindled attention to the problem of ticks. In reality it was already a few days that there was talk of ticks, with the alarm for some green areas of Roma, where, thanks to the degradation of urban areas, they would be thriving. With several rischi for human health as well. But not strictly due to the ticks themselves, as parasites, as one might believe. We put it together a little guide in key true or false to get to know these animals more closely, clarifying some aspects of their behavior, thanks to the information disseminated by the Ministry of Health, the Higher Institute of Health, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Americans Cdc, and the help of an expert in the field. Which confirms: yes, apparently this year seems to be particularly auspicious for the ticks.
Ticks are on the rise
Likely, we said, at least according to some indicators. There is no mention of numbers or monitoring in particular but of some indirect evidence. “On the one hand, the ticks that are brought to us, here at the Zooprophylactic Institute of Lazio and Tuscany, seem to be increasing – comments a Wired Claudio De Liberatoentomologist at the Institute – on the other hand, the samplings we are carrying out for research purposes show that it is incredibly easy to find them, perhaps due to particularly favorable climatic issues “. But beware of talking about ticks as exclusively summer animals and lovers of heat.
Ticks are seasonal
True, but with some caveats. If on the one hand it is true that, like many animals, ticks – small animals, arachnids, with a rounded body, no more than about 1 cm large, which suck blood from different hosts, often with little specificity – have their moment of maximum activity, this is true in general. Also by virtue of factors not strictly related to ticks: “In spring and summer we spend more time outdoors and this increases the chances of meeting ticks”De Liberato recalls: “But ticks are not animals like mosquitoes that disappear with the cold and above all each tick has its own preferences in terms of climate and environment”. So for example, continues the expert, the two most abundant and relevant species in Italy – the Ixodes ricinus (so-called mint of the woods) and the Rhipicephalus sanguineus (the dog tick) – show very different preferences: “The first loves cold and humid environments, because it is very prone to dehydration, the second, on the contrary, prefers dry and hot climates. This implies that as the climatic conditions vary, the abundance of the different species also varies and that in some areas, as a function of this, some are more abundant than others “. For example, the wood mint it is particularly abundant in north-eastern areas – to the point that tweezers to eliminate them are quite common in local pharmacies, the entomologist confides – while that of dogs in central and southern Italy.
Ticks can cause various diseases
True, even if some clarifications need to be made. When it comes to health risks related to ticks refers to their potential to transmit diseases rather than the danger associated with them stings. In fact, ticks sting, the better they suck blood, that is, they are gods bloodsucking parasites and in doing so they can transmit virus or battery, causing diseases, in some cases unfortunately, but rarely, even fatal. We therefore speak of infectionswhich differ geographically – that is, in certain areas some are more common than others – and related to the different tick species.
In Italiaby virtue of the species present, they can occur Lyme disease or borreliosistransmitted by ticks Ixodes and due to such bacteria Borrelial’tick-borne encephalitis (or Tbe, from Tick Borne Encephalitis), of viral origin (virus of the genus Flavivirus) also above all by means of Ixodesand the Mediterranean button fevera type of rickettsiosi common in the Mediterranean, due to rickettsial bacteria and transmitted by the dog tick. “There is no evidence of an increase in the incidence of these diseases and in the vast majority of cases, tick bites have no consequences”the expert goes on, “But in many cases the infections they give rise to have subtle or delayed beginnings, and this is why the research we conduct, among others, here at the institute, which aims to trace, after the removal of the tick, the presence of any pathogens, to understand if the target is at risk “. In general, the advice is to eliminate the tick as soon as possible, with the help of tweezers: “The sooner it is removed, the better: the probability of transmitting a pathogen is directly proportional to the time spent in the body”. And if it is true that in many cases the ticks do not lead to consequences or the infections are paucisymptomatic, in others the symptoms can be very serious – with encephalitis and death in the case of TB – or even becoming chronic – it is the case of Lyme disease, which in the advanced stage (also spoken of after years) leads to heart, neurological and joint problems. From Tbe – common above all in the north-east, also thanks to a reforestation process that has favored the ecology of Ixodes explains the expert – you can protect yourself with a vaccine.
Another of the ticks present in our area but which so far has not caused health problems in our part is the Hyalomma marginatum: “In Italy it is not a vector of disease, as it is in Spain, but it can become – says the entomologist – this tick usually travels on migratory birds of sub-Saharan origin. If it detaches and is infected it could be one way by which the related disease, Congo-Crimean hemorrhagic fever [dovuta ai Nairovirus, nda] it could also be introduced by us “.
False. Ticks reach their hosts by lurking and waiting for their passage. They are commonly found a few inches off the ground hidden in herbs e bushes and from here, thanks to a heat-sensitive system, they detect the presence of a possible host and attach themselves to it. Usually without the victim noticing it, thanks to the help of some analgesic substances that secrete. They can also remain attached to the host for days, also because for some species of ticks the blood meal can last for weeks.
Ticks must be removed
Vero. If precautions are not enough – dal locker room covering, repellents, care and inspection of the body, ours and any pet animals – and if we have been stung, it is better to proceed with removalkeeping in mind some indications (the complete ones can be found on the Epicentro website), but paying particular attention to some aspects: “Old remedies such as the use of oil, petrol or alcohol, or phials, mifers must be absolutely avoided: the risk is that the tick will regurgitate and possibly spread the pathogen it carries – concludes the entomologist – it is better to proceed with tweezers, delicately to avoid pieces remaining in the skin and avoiding crushing the abdomen, again to avoid any regurgitation “. In case of symptoms or redness contact your doctor.