Giant tick is spreading: Italian holiday region affected

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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A giant tick has taken hold in northern Italy. The Natural History Museum of the City of Trieste said it now occurs largely in the Italian province of Trieste, which is popular with tourists. Global warming has shortened winters in recent years. This probably enabled the establishment of populations of the species “Hyalomma marginatum”. The east of the province is particularly affected.

The tick, which is common in parts of Asia and Africa, has striped legs and, at up to two centimeters, is significantly larger than the best-known tick species in Germany – the “common tick” (Ixodes ricinus). Unlike the latter, it has eyes and actively moves towards its prey – over many meters.

Giant ticks are already widespread in southern Europe

The rocky Trieste Karst provides a favorable environment for the giant tick, as the Trieste Museum explained: It does not live in tall, moist grasses, but inhabits open, sunny areas with short grasses and rocks – typical of the karst landscape.

The establishment of Hyalomma in Trieste is not surprising from an Italian point of view: when asked, the health authority Istituto Superiore di Sanità said that Hyalomma marginatum is a species already widespread in Italy. This is also demonstrated by an overview from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) from last August: the tick is also found in large parts of Portugal, Spain, southern France, as well as in Croatia and Greece. In many places, however, data on the occurrence is lacking.

So far, two species of Hyalomma in Germany

Also in Germany Ticks of the two species Hyalomma marginatum and Hyalomma rufipes have been found regularly for years – they usually travel north with migratory birds from hot, dry areas in the south. “We are currently not assuming that there are already established populations of these tick species in Germany that live here,” Alexander Lindau from the University of Hohenheim told the German Press Agency.

However, further rising temperatures and decreasing humidity could contribute to the emergence of a Hyalomma population in this country in the long term, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Carrier of Crimean-Congo fever and typhus

Hyalomma ticks can transmit diseases such as Crimean-Congo fever and typhus. According to analyzes by the University of Hohenheim, almost every second Hyalomma tick found in Germany carries the typhus pathogen. According to Lindau, only one suspected case from 2019 has been recorded so far, in which a man from North Rhine-Westphalia probably contracted typhus after being bitten by a Hyalomma tick.

Typical of the infection caused by certain bacteria – called rickettsiae – is a rash, which gave the disease its name. A tick carrying the pathogen that causes Crimean-Congo fever, which can cause potentially fatal bleeding, has not yet been found in Germany.

Insect sprays on the skin can deter ticks, and long clothing can also prevent tick bites. If a bite occurs, you must Remove ticks as quickly as possiblefor example, with a tick card, tick hook or tick tweezers.

Experts expect a strong year for ticks in Germany

Currently, a total of 27 species of Hyalomma are described, as Lindau said. Hyalomma marginatum is particularly widespread in the southern Mediterranean region, Hyalomma rufipes particularly in the dry regions of Africa, south of the Sahara and the Red Sea region. “There are also some deposits in Egypt and Tunisia.”

According to the expert, Germany could be facing a very strong year for ticks. There is currently very high tick activity on drier, hotter days. “We therefore assume that this will continue throughout the year.”

With information from dpa

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