Ticks active earlier – is climate change to blame?

Dangerous parasite

Danger of ticks: is the risk exacerbated by climate change?

Video graphic: climate time bomb permafrost

Video graphic: climate time bomb permafrost

Large land masses of the northern polar region consist of frozen ground. This so-called permafrost covers a quarter of the land area in the northern hemisphere. These areas are thawing more and more – with devastating consequences for the earth’s climate, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns.

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It’s getting warmer and ticks are increasingly on the move. But does global warming mean that animals are active earlier and for longer?

Berlin/Erlangen/Munich. They lurk in forests, meadows, parks and gardens: ticks. When temperatures rise above eight degrees, the small arachnids look for hosts to attach themselves to and theirs drink blood can. The parasites overwinter in the soil and are usually active from March to November. But that could change now, as new research shows. Ticks would therefore roam through nature earlier in the year. One reason could be global warming.

Ticks: That’s why they’re so dangerous

What makes the tick so dangerous? The most common tick species in Europe is the “common woodblock”. In particular, this species drinks the blood of rodents, deer and game. The problem with this: If the tick then attaches itself to a person stuckit can transmit pathogens from animals to humans.

A tick bite can cause many infectious diseases. Above all, Lyme disease – a bacterial infection – and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) can be triggered by the animal, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). FMSE is meningitis caused by viruses. Both diseases can become serious damage to health – there are antibiotics for Lyme disease, and you can get vaccinated against FMSE.

Climate change – earlier danger from ticks?

The tick season begins every year when the temperatures climb. According to Gerhard Dobler from the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology in Munich, there were earlier phases this year in which ticks were active. The tick season has generally shifted forward. This is also reflected in rising TBE numbers: The cases have not only increased in southern Germany, but also in the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland since 2015.

“We believe that climate change plays a role in this. We just don’t know how,” says Dobler. To get more information, he and his team are currently collecting ticks in the risk areas and check them for the virus. Dobler reports that he was already in February Ticks discovered in a Munich park.

Ticks could spread more in the north

Dobler suspects that the climate crisis could also be responsible for the fact that the TBE cases accumulate at higher altitudes. Volker Fingerle, an expert at the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety in Erlangen, suspects that the “common wood tick” tick species is continuing to spread north could spread in Europe. A number of studies have already confirmed this, but long-term studies are still required.

The global warming could cause another problem: new species of ticks. According to Fingerle, there are currently more than 20 different species of arachnids in Germany. There are around 900 worldwide. The expert gives an example: the type of tick called Hyalomma giant tick is usually at home in arid and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia and southern Europe. However, migratory birds could bring the species to Germany. According to Fingerle, these ticks actually die in winter because of the cold. “We will certainly be faced with the fact that the climate will be such that it will survive the winter or that it will adapt,” says the expert.

Ticks: So far, special caution has been applied in these regions

Earlier this month, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Bavaria and Saxony added three new ones TBE risk areas identified in Germany. The RKI warns of a risk of infection in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, southern Hesse, south-eastern Thuringia, Saxony and since last year also in south-eastern Brandenburg. In other federal states there are individual risk areas. The Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) recommends a TBE vaccination for people traveling in risk areas.


Wed., 29.03.2023, 1.18 p.m

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