The increase in temperature facilitates the spread of ticks in the mountains and around the world

The increase in global temperature has unexpected implications also in the spread of annoying anthropods, ticks, which can damage the health of unsuspecting tourists and the inhabitants of the Alpine areas affected by the phenomenon. An excessive alarm bell? Perhaps, but some calls for caution have been launched by the health authorities of some Italian Alpine regions, explaining that this year’s climatic conditions are particularly favorable for the spread of ticks.

The causes of the spread

The mild winter and spring with high temperatures favored the spread of ticks and their proliferation a few weeks earlier than the norm in Alpine areas. These two phenomena mean many more examples in circulation and, therefore, it is necessary to be more careful and adopt prudent behavior.

What diseases can ticks cause?

Their bite is almost painless, but it can cause some diseases, such as ticket born encephalitis (Tbe) and the Lyme disease (both mainly transmitted by the wood mint). To combat the phenomenon, from 2019 the Veneto Region guarantees free vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis (Tbe) on request for all people residing in the Ulss 1 Dolomiti Company, i.e. the Province of Belluno. In the rest of the region it is offered free of charge to subjects belonging to some categories at risk, such as mountain rescue volunteers and civil protection volunteers. In the moderate and low endemic areas of the other Ulss in the Veneto region, it will be made available at a discounted price of 25 euros per dose.

Climate, Lyme disease cases doubled in 12 years

More than one in 7 people worldwide has contracted Lyme disease, transmitted by tick bites and with the advancing heat the disease will spread more and more around the world. And in 12 years the cases of contagion due to climate change have doubled. This was revealed by a study published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

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How does the infection happen?

When an infected tick bites an animal or individual it can transmit a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, the main cause of Lyme disease, which owes its name to the American town of the same name where the first case was described in 1975. Symptoms, including fever, headache, rash, and weakness, can appear days to weeks after the bite. The disease in most cases can be treated with antibiotics but without intervention the pathogen can cause long lasting damage and inflammation throughout the body.

Yan Dong of Kunming Medical University in China analyzed data from 89 studies conducted between January 1984 and December 2021. These included blood samples from a total of more than 150,000 individuals. The researchers then took into account in detail the presence of antibodies against B.burgdorferi in the blood, which signal a Lyme disease infection. The data allowed for an updated map to be drawn and revealed that the overall disease infection rate is 14.5%.

The analysis identified three areas with the highest rate of Lyme disease: central Europe (20.7%), East Asia (15.9%) ed Western Europe (13.5%). The lowest rates were in the Caribbean, South Asia and Oceania (all under 5%), while North America had an infection rate of just over 9%.

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The review also showed that Lyme disease infections became more common over time. The climate with increasingly higher temperatures, in fact, can allow and favor ticks to spread to new regions and extend their lifespan, increasing the potential to transmit pathogens.

“Our results indicate that the prevalence of B.burgdorferi in 2010-2021 it was higher than in 2001-2010, “write the authors of the medical research, noting that longer summers, warmer winters and changes in rainfall could play a significant role in tick distribution. All the more reason why governments respect the Paris climate agreements and not delay in their commitments.

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