In May, the townspeople rush to summer cottages, personal plots, to the forest. Just do not forget that it is here that you may be in for a worse misfortune than a bee sting, a deep splinter and thorns aiming at the eye. One of the most terrible diseases that, along with the first flowers, excellent appetite and wonderful memories, can be brought from the forest is tick-borne encephalitis.
In our northern latitudes, like all other insects, ticks are active in the warm season – from late April to September. Ticks are especially energetic at an air temperature of +20 degrees and a humidity of 90-95 percent. In clear weather, ticks are active in the morning and in the evening, and the largest number of them “hunt” in cloudy weather, on the eve of rain.
During its – not too long – life (30-50 days), an adult tick drinks blood only a few times. However, before that, passing through the stages of the larva, and then the nymph, he also feeds on blood. The tick lives in the soil, turf, fallen leaves – the so-called forest floor. At the same time, he chooses places along forest paths and roads along which victims walk – warm-blooded animals and people. Research by scientists has shown that the number of ticks on the roads can be 10-50 times higher than in the neighboring forest.
The larvae and nymphs of the tick are completely microscopic creatures, and the adult, but hungry tick is a tiny creature of an inconspicuous brown-brown color. God deprived him of his eyesight, but a keen sense of smell allows the tick to “calculate” the approaching victim and prepare in advance for the attack, taking an advantageous position and pose for the attack. Many people mistakenly believe that ticks fall from trees. In fact, they move vertically from the bottom up, crawling out of the same forest floor and clinging to animal hair or human clothes from tall blades of grass or shrub leaves at a height of about one meter.
Having climbed under the clothes, the tick travels for a very long time – for one and a half to two hours – travels through the body of the victim in search of a secluded place for bloodletting – the scalp, ears, neck, armpits, inguinal folds. Its bite is completely painless due to the injection of anesthetics. Only after a day or two does a feeling of slight pulling pain appear, as inflammation develops at the site of suction. The wound from a tick bite is very itchy and heals very reluctantly.
The tick’s appetite depends on its age. A newborn larva will be satiated in two days, while a mature tick will feast for up to 12 (!) Days before, turning into a ball up to two centimeters in size, it voluntarily falls off and falls on its native land. During this time, he will gain weight by 300-500 times due to the drunk blood. And in a few days – small and hungry – will again lie in wait for another victim.
The tick-borne encephalitis virus is acquired by ticks when feeding on the blood of sick animals: hedgehogs, hares, raccoons, wolves, foxes, bears, deer, mouse-like rodents, dogs, cows, goats. By the way, the last two can be infected with the virus even through raw milk! A female tick infected with the virus transmits the infection to all of its numerous offspring. Accumulating in the body of ticks, the virus penetrates into their salivary glands, from where, when a person is bitten, it penetrates into his body. It is comforting that even in particularly active foci, only 0.5-5 percent of all ticks are carriers of the virus. And also the fact that out of 100 people bitten by ticks, only 10-15 will get sick with tick-borne encephalitis. It is interesting that in most animals this disease, which is dangerous for humans, passes without clinical manifestations.
Another thing is the person. Encephalitis is one of the most dangerous diseases that affects the central nervous system and motor center, leading to paralysis. The outcome in various forms, the severity of the disease and the effectiveness of treatment can vary from many years of disability to rapid death.
The fact is that tick-borne encephalitis has several forms, the manifestations of which are sometimes completely opposite. Therefore, it is very difficult to diagnose EC by clinical manifestations. Judge for yourself. After 1-30 (and an average of 7-14) days – the incubation period of the virus – the patient begins to show the first signs of the disease: abruptly, with chills, the temperature rises (up to 38-40 degrees), severe headache occurs, weakness, nausea appear and vomiting, diarrhea and sweating, sore throat, muscles and joints. In some patients, the acute onset is preceded by a period of malaise, weakness, and decreased ability to work. In others, on the contrary, the disease may begin with a convulsive seizure or a sharp excitement. The pulse is speeded up, but in severe cases it can, conversely, slow down. High body temperature persists for 5-6 days, and decreases by 8-10 days.
It is not surprising that on the basis of such conflicting symptoms, therapists often make a diagnosis: atypical forms of influenza, catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, meningitis, etc. A qualified diagnosis of TBE can only be made through complex – and, alas, very expensive – research by epidemiologists. That is why the diagnosis of TBE is rarely made, without reflecting the true epidemiological situation.
Therefore, dear lovers of forest walks, you can only count on yourself in the fight against insidious ticks. And for this you will have to use old folk remedies, tested back in those days when, in fact, encephalitis itself was not yet heard of. (By the way, this same encephalitis was first described only in 1937, although parasitic mites are the oldest scourge of mankind, and the notorious Caligula suffered from encephalitis.)
And folk wisdom on the part of bloodsucking mites says the following:
Natalia YUKHIMCHUK, infectious disease specialist