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Tick bites in cities

Woman sitting in a park

Ticks are a dangerous reality in rural areas and increasingly in the city. In areas such as Murcia and Zaragoza, the authorities have taken measures not only to protect animals, but also people are at great risk from tick bites.

You are in the centre of your town, walking your pet who is sniffing through the leaves of a hedge. You soon realise that a critter is crawling up the side of it, a tick. This can happen to you or your children when they play in the park. Especially this year.

Last spring, the proliferation of ticks was explained by grass growth, abundant rainfall and human inaction on plants due to the pandemic. This year reinforces the theory of climate change and the truth is that tick infestations have been found in green areas in many cities: Zaragoza, Leganés or la Plana Alta, in Castellón.. What few people know is that these mites are endemic to northern Spain and are very common in livestock farming areas.

Ticks are becoming more and more widespread throughout the country and their presence extends beyond the summer season. Many local councils already consider that this is a public health problem because they transmit diseases and in cities such as Zaragoza a decision has been taken to carry out a major disinfection in the city's parks.

We at Biosalud Day Hospital are well aware of the reasons for this: ticks can transmit a number of infectious diseases, including tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease. But why is the public not informed about the real risks? Prevention is the most effective weapon against ticks and everyone should know how to proceed so that an afternoon in the park or at the swimming pool does not have lifelong consequences.

Paradoxical though it may be, the amount of green space within cities increases the likelihood of tick proliferation. but also a thermal phenomenon called the "island effect" which indicates that, as temperatures within cities are higher than those of their surroundings, vectors increase their activity within cities.

Vectors are animals that act as transmitters of viruses or bacteria. The tick, for example, transmits bacteria such as the babesia, bartonella or the borrelia, that conveys the Lyme disease.

What can you do if you get bitten by a tick in the city?

The consequences of a tick bite can be the same as in rural areas. and the first 24 hours after the bite are crucial; the longer a tick spends inside our skin, the more likely it is to transmit a disease.

However, not all ticks transmit infections such as Lyme disease and not all people contract diseases in the same way. The density of infected ticks decreases with the level of urbanisation of the area but increases with the origin of the animal species living in or passing through urban areas. For example, experts say that one of the causes of the proliferation of ticks in Zaragoza may be the appearance of rabbit infestations in areas such as Valdespartera or in the Pinares de Venecia.

If you frequent the green areas of your cityplease note:

  • Find out about tick and other vector populations in your city.
  • Protect yourself in the same way as when you go out in the countryside, with light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing, use repellent and, above all, check your body and your children's bodies when you get home.
  • If you find a tick crawling up your skin, or already attached to your body, remove it with tweezers and do not touch it with your hands, use rubber gloves.
  • If the tick has bitten you, you need to save it to test it for infectious agents in case you have symptoms of disease. The best way to do this is to wrap the tick completely in heat. This will kill the tick and prevent it from escaping. You can also soak the tick in alcohol in a sealed jar to prevent it from escaping.
  • If you think you won't be able to remove the tick from your body because you don't have the right equipment, go to the emergency room or your health centre to have it done by professionals.

If you have detected a tick and you also have flu-like symptoms, it is best to see a specialist who can treat your case and remember that Lyme disease can appear months or even weeks after the bite. That's why prevention is so important and why it's important to have specialists like those at Biosalud Day Hospital who are able to develop and develop appropriate diagnosis and treatments for this very serious pathology. 

Your pets and ticks

Regular dog care involves the application of internal and external parasites. The well-known pipette is one of the most effective methods of preventing them from infecting animals, because if the tick dies when it comes into contact with your dog's blood.

This does not mean that your pet does not carry this type of mite when it enters the house. The best thing to do is to apply a repellent to prevent your dog from being attractive to ticks. Brands such as Frontline, Bolfo or Fletcare are effective and easy to find.

Sometimes they will recommend natural repellents such as citronella and others that you can make at home. However, they are less effective as the product does not remain on the animal's fur for long.

Mariano Bueno

Dr. Mariano Bueno and his team

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