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When are ticks most dangerous, and is there immunity to Lyme disease?

How to protect yourself and what you should know about ticks is explained by an infectiologist at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg.

Once the thermometer shows higher temperatures, people are drawn outdoors, and ticks become active again. These arachnids are known to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Tick-borne encephalitis.

The most common is Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria and shows symptoms similar to those of the flu: they can range from fever, fatigue and aching limbs to reddening of the skin and signs of paralysis.

“If Lyme disease is diagnosed in time, it can be well treated with antibiotics. Since there is currently no sufficiently effective vaccination against Lyme disease, everyone should thoroughly check themselves for ticks after spending time outdoors in nature,” says Prof. Dr. Siegbert Richard Rieg, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg. "Repellents only have a limited effect. In areas with high tick density, it is more helpful to wear long clothing and, for example, tuck your pants into your socks. After a bite, it takes 24 to 36 hours for Borrelia to be transmitted."

Less common than bacterial Lyme disease is TBE (Tick-borne encephalitis). This is a viral disease that primarily affects the central nervous system. Infected ticks carry the TBE viruses in their salivary glands, so transmission can occur very quickly when they bite, i.e. within a few hours.

"Therefore, the most effective protection against TBE is vaccination, which should happen in the spring," Prof. Rieg advises. Three vaccinations are needed to achieve full protection.

Five important facts about the unpleasant ticks:

1. After Lyme disease, a person does not develop lifelong immunity.

Unlike some other infectious diseases, such as measles, there is no lifelong immunity for Lyme disease. "It is therefore important to continue to take precautions against tick bites after surviving Lyme disease," Prof. Rieg says.

2. TBE can be contracted not only in the early summer.

"Most ticks become active at temperatures from about ten degrees Celsius. That's why the risk of infection with TBE or Lyme disease is particularly high in spring and summer. However, ticks are now active from March to November, sometimes even longer, because of the mild winter months," Prof. Rieg explains.

3. Ticks are true survivors.

While many insects and parasites need food every day, some tick species can survive several years without a blood meal.

4. Ticks survive in the washing machine.

Ticks basically have no problem with moisture. Even a normal washing cycle is not a life-threatening environment for them. It only becomes critical for ticks when they are exposed to temperatures higher than 60 degrees Celcius.

5. Ticks are stowaways.

Although ticks are not long-distance runners and exhausted after only a few meters, they can spread across countries and continents. They travel as stowaways on lumber shipments or traverse distances in the air on hosts such as birds.