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The high temperatures of summer have brought with them ticks, an arthropod capable of transmitting more than 50 different diseases with its bite.
These are parasites that reside in a large number of wild and domestic animals, feed on the blood of their hosts and are much more dangerous to humans than is believed, since, according to Fernando de la Calle, specialist in the Unit of Imported Pathology and International Health of the Hospital La Paz, "More and more people are coming to the hospital for this reason."
In Spain, with six species of ticks registered by the European Centre for Disease Control, the most important diseases for human health are mainly bacterial, such as Lyme disease, botonosa fever, anaplasmosis or tularemia, and parasitic, such as babesiosis.
To the list must be added viral diseases, such as encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever caused by the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, which has a mortality of 30% without treatment.
Dr. De la Calle has warned that "during the last years" has been detected "an increase in consultations for tick bites". "We are now in a strong time, after atypical years due to the pandemic and with the recovery of mobility," explained the specialist.
Specifically, he explained that people mainly come to consultation for "complications of local infection by bite". Fundamentally, he detailed, these are cases of rickettsiosis, Lyme disease and, to a lesser extent, babesiosis and anaplasmosis.
In this sense, the epidemiologist misses "sensitization" to "warning signs" that point to a possible tick bite. All this, he emphasized, seeking "the balance between being informed without being alarmed."
"You do not have to go crazy but be attentive to the symptoms and complications and, if you appreciate seriousness, go to specialized units," he argued.
As a general rule, the parasite takes between 24 and 48 hours to start feeding on the blood, so until then, the risk of transmitting the infection is lower, hence the importance of removing it as soon as possible.
To do this, it is recommended to use tweezers or remove them with your fingers with thin gloves, trying to avoid crushing or using natural remedies such as oil or alcohol. The result is, many times, the permanence of part of the oral apparatus in the skin and the formation of a permanent granuloma. Therefore, the extraction should be slow and meticulous, holding the tick from the head and pulling it gently upwards.
"People tend to remove the tick and little else," explains the expert, who asks to remain "vigilant, without obsession", for 10 or 14 days before symptoms such as fever or the appearance of a skin rash. Also, before atypical signs in the skin such as a black crust that does not heal or complications such as bleeding gums or bruises.
In this sense, he stressed the importance of providing the doctor with as much information as possible so that he can help him relate the symptoms to the bite of a tick. This is the case of Rosana Toribio, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease after being labeled "crazy" at first "for going to the emergency room for a mosquito bite."
The young woman from Madrid began to feel bad a few days after making a route in Tenerife through a ravine "that was super dry". "When I returned to Madrid I started to feel bad. After three or four days I had a fever, malaise, I was fatal. I had like a mosquito bite at first and I didn't give it any importance," he said.
However, Rosana, a pharmacist by training, decided to go to a hospital alarmed by the characteristics of the red halo that appeared around the bite. "At first they called me crazy when I went to the emergency room for a mosquito bite when it surely had nothing to do with the discomfort I felt," she said with a laugh.
Fortunately, he said, the nurse called a doctor who, as soon as he observed the characteristics of the bite, suspected its possible relationship with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that if not treated immediately can generate multiple health problems.
Without adequate treatment, Lyme disease becomes chronic, seriously affecting the development of a normal life through acute neurological, cardiac and / or joint manifestations. In this sense, Rosana is fortunate that this doctor related her case to the bite of a tick.
"After a while, the bite disappears, the halo disappears, and you no longer relate anything to that route in Tenerife and that bite, which could have taken place several months ago," he warns.
In Spain, in addition to Lyme disease, one of the most frequent diseases due to tick bites is botonosa fever, which begins with sudden fever, photophobia, joint pain, myalgias and malaise and can evolve to severe forms and lead to hepatitis, meningoencephalitis or kidney failure.
One of the most serious consequences may also be Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), with 12 cases reported and four deaths in Spain since 2013.
In September 2016, the first human case was diagnosed in the Community, associated with contact with a tick in the province of Ávila, and a second case in a health professional who attended him. The case detected in Madrid was the first in Western Europe with an autochthonous character, not imported from another geographical area.
Although more rarely, the tick can also produce host paralysis by inoculating a neurotoxin. It usually affects children under 10 years of age and can cause death from respiratory paralysis.
HOW TO AVOID TICKS
To avoid these situations, it is advisable that when you go out to the field you wear appropriate clothing, with long sleeves and pants, and wear closed boots and socks. It is also recommended to wear light-colored clothing, which allows you to easily check if any of these arachnids are camouflaged.
In the walks through the natural environment it is recommended to travel through the central area of the roads, avoiding, as far as possible, contact with the vegetation on the sides. Special care is requested in areas with high soil humidity, that is, areas near water courses or floods, with possible presence of livestock.
In addition, it is advisable to avoid sitting on the ground in areas with a lot of vegetation, use authorized repellents and protect pets with a deworming product. In the event that it is necessary to handle a pet to clean it, it should be done with gloves.
At the end of the country day, it is also advisable to examine the whole body and wash the clothes used with hot water. It is important to pay special attention to the armpits, groin, hair, navel and around the waist.
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